Spain: Judge appeals Civil War probe indictment

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish judge known for indicting Osama bin Laden and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet lodged an appeal Saturday against his own indictment for abuse of power in initiating a probe into Spain's Civil War atrocities.

Baltasar Garzon's lawyer, Gonzalo Martinez-Fresneda, presented the appeal before the Supreme Court and supplied copies to The Associated Press.

Garzon was charged April 7 by the court's magistrate Luciano Varela with knowingly acting beyond his jurisdiction by launching the probe in 2008. He had begun looking into tens of thousands of wartime and postwar executions and disappearances attributed to forces loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco, despite the crimes being covered by an amnesty decreed in 1977.

The appeal claims the indictment is "contrary to law and implies a serious challenge to judicial independence."

Varela's indictment arose from legal action against Garzon by two small extreme right-wing political groups, Falange and Manos Limpias.

"Ideological motivations have moved certain organizations and marginal groups to exert legal action against Baltasar Garzon," the appeal says.

If convicted of exceeding his jurisdiction Garzon would not face jail time but could be removed from the bench for 10 to 20 years, effectively ending the 54-year-old judge's career.

Garzon has been one of Spain's most prominent yet divisive public officials, a man well-known globally for high profile cross-border justice cases.

Garzon is a hero to leftists and groups like Amnesty International for daring to take on tough human rights and anti-terror cases. But conservatives in Spain have viewed him as a headline-loving egotist with a grudge against right-wing causes.

Garzon prosecutions have encompassed Islamic extremists, Basque separatists and Argentine "dirty war" suspects.