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Thousands rally in support of Garzón

Actors and politicians call on Supreme Court to stop "persecution"

From performing artists and politicians to labor leaders and writers, a massive crowd held a rally outside the Supreme Court on Sunday in support of High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón, who has gone on trial on two occasions during the past two weeks.

Holding placards with Garzón's image under the slogan "Against the crimes of shame," the estimated several thousand people demanded that the top court stop its "persecution" of Garzón.

"The Garzón case is quickly becoming the Dreyfus case of the 21st century," said UGT secretary general Cándido Méndez, referring to the 19th-century French case of Alfred Dreyfus, immortalized by Émile Zola in his open letter, J'accuse.

"I am here to support Garzón and the law of historical memory so that they can open all the mass graves," said actress Pilar Bardem.

On Friday, Garzón was indicted by the Supreme Court for allegedly accepting money from Banco Santander to finance lectures he gave at New York University while on leave from the High Court. The case has already been thrown out on two occasions.

Garzón, 56, went on trial last Tuesday on charges that he overstepped his bench duties by trying to open an inquiry into crimes committed during the Civil War and subsequent Franco regime. A complaint filed by the obscure rightwing union Manos Limpias alleges that Garzón purposely ignored the 1977 amnesty law.

On January 17, the Supreme Court put Garzón on trial for authorizing wiretaps of conversations between the jailed leader of the so-called Gürtel corrupt businessmen's network and their lawyers. The defendants in that case say that Garzón was trying to learn their defense strategy, but the judge claims he wanted to stop them from concealing their ill-gotten money.