Spanish terror judge heads to NY
By CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman
MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- The Spanish judge who ordered the arrest of General Augusto Pinochet and who later indicted Osama bin Laden, is heading to a New York City university to lecture on and research terrorism.
Judge Baltasar Garzon will take temporary leave for eight months, from March, to take up the post at New York University, a court official told CNN, ending three months of speculation by Spanish media about the move.
The court official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN that Garzon secured approval from the Spanish judiciary's governing body for the leave, from March 1 to November 1 this year.
Garzon, 49, would then be expected to return to his duties at Spain's National Court, which handles terrorism cases.
He is one of the best-known investigating magistrates at the court, tackling some of the highest-profile cases.
Since the mid-1990s, Garzon has investigated the killings and disappearances of Spaniards and other citizens under the former Argentine and Chilean military governments of the 1970s.
In October 1998, Garzon ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as he recovered from surgery in a London hospital.
Pinochet eventually eluded extradition to Spain, after Britain allowed him to return home on the grounds that his health prevented him from standing trial on human rights charges.
But in the latest legal setback for Pinochet, the Chilean Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a judge's ruling that Pinochet is fit, under the so-called Operation Condor, to stand trial for murder and kidnapping. (Full story)
Operation Condor was a cooperative effort between South American dictatorships in the 1970s to eliminate political opponents.
Garzon has spent years investigating Islamic terrorist activities in Spain.
In September 2003, he indicted Osama bin Laden and 34 others -- including the alleged al Qaeda chief in Spain -- on terrorism charges, and linked some of them to the September 11 attacks in the United States.
That case has since been expanded to include other suspects and trials are expected, possibly this year.
Operation Nova, in which police arrested 42 Islamic terrorist suspects last year under Garzon's direction is one of the Spanish judge's more recent cases.
Those suspects were arrested on suspicion of a plot to blow up a truck bomb outside the National Court in Madrid, where Garzon works.
The court official told CNN that Garzon would try to finish the investigative phase of the Nova plot, as well work on an ongoing investigation into the outlawed Batasuna party, the alleged political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA.
Garzon has been with the court for nearly 17 years.
When he joined, in February 1988 at the age of 32, he was the youngest investigating magistrate working there.
He has also investigated drug trafficking and other crimes in Spain.
Garzon grew up in a humble farm family in southern Spain, took studies that could have led to the priesthood and pumped gas to help pay for college.
In an exclusive interview with CNN in November 2003, Garzon said: "I was raised on some basic principles of respect and responsibility. They are the principles and the philosophy of life that my parents instilled in me," he said.
"Also, my character was formed in the places where I studied and worked. Yes, we could say that I have a vocation which essentially is to serve others."