Madrid: The crusading Spanish judge who indicted Augusto Pinochet and Osama bin Laden has been suspended from his post, a punishment that could end the career of a man who probed one of Spain`s biggest cases — atrocities committed during and after the nation`s civil war.
Friday`s decision was made unanimously by a judicial oversight board called the General Council of the Judiciary after an emergency meeting at which the only topic was the judge, Baltasar Garzon, said its spokeswoman, Gabriela Bravo.
Supporters chanted, cheered and clapped as Garzon emerged from the nearby National Court, where he works, and hugged co-workers before getting into a limousine and driving away.
Garzon, 54, internationally famous for his cross border justice cases, has been removed from his post pending a trial on charges that he knowingly overstepped the bounds of his jurisdiction in 2008 by investigating the execution or disappearance of more than 100,000 civilians at the hands of supporters of Gen. Francisco Franco during the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War or in the early years of the Franco dictatorship.
Until Garzon acted, there had been no official probe of such atrocities, which were covered by an amnesty passed in 1977, two years after Franco died, as Spain moved toward reconciliation.
Garzon was indicted last month by the Supreme Court, and this week the court threw out the last appeals that could have spared him from going on trial in the next few months.
Once the appeal was thrown out, the judicial oversight body had no choice but to suspend Garzon.
Still, even though the decision was widely expected, many in Spain are treating it as more important and devastating than whatever verdict might come out of his trial.
Garzon`s lawyer, Gonzalo Martinez-Fresneda, said a few weeks ago that if Garzon were suspended, it would effectively end his career, regardless of what happens at the trial.
This week Garzon requested a leave of absence from his post at the National Court so he could accept a job offer at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The status of that request was not clear after his suspension Friday.