March 29, 2009 in Nation/World

Spanish judge hears charges targeting six ex-U.S. officials

Paul Haven Associated Press
 

MADRID – A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.

Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told the Associated Press.

The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington; former Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and former Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

“The charges as related to me make no sense,” Feith said Saturday. “They criticize me for promoting a controversial position that I never advocated.”

Yoo declined to comment. A message left at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco where Bybee is now a judge was not immediately returned. A message left at Chevron Corp. in San Ramon, Calif., where Haynes reportedly works as an attorney, was not immediately returned.

Spanish law allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes under a doctrine of universal justice, though the government has recently said it hopes to limit the scope of the legal process.

Garzon became famous for bringing charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, and he and other Spanish judges have agreed to investigate alleged abuses everywhere from Tibet to Argentina’s “dirty war,” El Salvador and Rwanda.

Still, the country’s record in prosecuting such cases has been spotty at best, with only one suspect extradited to Spain so far.

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