Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spain’s Attorney General Opposes Prosecutions of 6 Bush Officials on Allowing Torture

Published: April 16, 2009

PARIS — Spain’s attorney general on Thursday strongly criticized steps to open a criminal investigation in Madrid into allegations that six former Bush administration officials authorized the torture of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Cándido Conde-Pumpido, the attorney general, said at a breakfast meeting with journalists in Madrid that he would oppose any legal action in Spain because the proper forum would be an American court and that any investigation should focus on those who actually mistreated detainees.

But in Spain, the attorney general does not have the last word; an investigating judge decides whether a case will proceed. Lawyers familiar with the case said that the stage had now apparently been set for a struggle between judges and politicians.

The judge handling the complaint against the Americans is Baltasar Garzón, the crusading magistrate who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

In the past, Mr. Garzón has ignored opinions by politicians and law enforcement officials.

But with Spain’s government eager to improve its formerly tense relations with Washington, lawyers familiar with the case said there was evidently political pressure to dismiss it.

The attorney general’s public intervention was unexpected and unusual, particularly because he appeared to overrule prosecutors at the Madrid court that was dealing with the complaint.

Last week the prosecutors, who are asked for an opinion before the investigating judge proceeds, wrote that Spain could claim jurisdiction in the case because it was a party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and five former Guantánamo inmates, three of them Spanish citizens and two Spanish residents, claimed that they were tortured. Lawyers who had seen the still-unreleased document said it gave the green light for a criminal investigation against the six Americans.

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