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Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon defends himself over Franco-era probe

Arturo Rodriguez / AP

An unidentified woman embraces judge Baltasar Garzon as he arrives at the Supreme Court in Madrid on Jan. 31, 2012. Garzon is sitting in the dock as a criminal defendant for allegedly overstepping his jurisdiction with a probe of right wing atrocities during and after the Spanish civil war.

The Associated Press reports from MADRID

The Spanish judge known for pioneering cross-border justice in cases of alleged crimes against humanity sat in the dock Tuesday as a criminal defendant and defiantly rejected charges he overstepped his jurisdiction by probing right wing atrocities during and after the Spanish civil war. 

Baltasar Garzon declined to take questions from his accusers, which are two right wing groups. Prosecutors say he committed no crime. This is a quirk of Spanish law: private citizens can seek to bring criminal charges against someone even if prosecutors disagree.

Garzon is perhaps best-known for indicting the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, having him arrested while Pinochet visited London in an ultimately failed bid to bring him to Madrid for trial. Read the full story.

Supporters of Garzon gathered outside the court, some holding photographs of people who were killed or disappeared during the rule of Gen. Francisco Franco.

Susana Vera / Reuters

A supporter of Baltasar Garzon holds a banner that reads "More judges like Garzon" during a protest outside Madrid's Supreme Court on Jan. 31, 2012.

Susana Vera / Reuters

A supporter of Baltasar Garzon takes photos next to pictures of alleged victims of Francoism during a protest outside Madrid's Supreme Court on Jan. 31, 2012.