Crusading Spanish judge orders inquiry into Franco era

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MADRID -- The crusading investigative judge Baltasar Garzón opened Spain’s first criminal investigation into Franco-era executions and repression with an order on Thursday to open 19 mass graves, including one believed to contain the remains of the poet Federico García Lorca.

Judge Garzón, who has focused on terrorism cases in recent years, is often lauded for his failed attempt to prosecute Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 for crimes against humanity. But his Thursday order raised immediate controversy within Spain itself. Silence and a so-called “pact of forgetting” about past atrocities was the pillar of the peaceful transition to democracy after the nearly 40-year dictatorship of Franco, who died in 1975.

In a 68-page court document, Judge Garzón accepted a petition to investigate the forced disappearances of thousands of people...

The conservative opposition argues that the investigation — along with recent government legislation offering symbolic reparations to Republican victims — opens old wounds. State prosecutors believe the disappearances are immune to prosecution under an Amnesty Law of 1977 and plan to appeal.

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