Spain prosecutors seek to block civil war probe
MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish prosecutors Monday asked the High Court to block an investigation by a judge into the killing of thousands of people during the 1936-39 civil war, saying any such crimes are closed under a 1977 amnesty law.
A ruling is not expected for two months and in the meantime efforts by Judge Baltazar Garzon to locate, identify and exhume the remains of victims, many of whom lie in mass graves after being summarily shot, would carry on.
Garzon, who came to international prominence when he tried to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998 for alleged crimes against humanity, said last week the amnesty law did not apply to human rights crimes.
The judge wants relatives of victims to know the circumstances of their deaths, in what campaigners regard as a step towards healing wounds from a conflict which remains divisive to this day.
Opposition Popular Party politicians over the weekend were critical of the probe, saying it would re-ignite old rivalries and divert attention from tackling an economic crisis sparked by a global credit crunch.
Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in Spain's civil war, which started with a military coup led by General Francisco Franco against a democratically elected government.
Franco won the war and ruled as a dictator until his death in 1975.
In September, Garzon received the names of more than 130,000 people who disappeared during the civil war from church and human rights groups.
He has since ordered the opening of graves including that of Federico Garcia Lorca, Spain's most famous poet and playwright, who was shot by Franco's forces in 1936.
(Reporting by Blanca Rodriguez; Writing by Martin Roberts; Editing by Matthew Jones)
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