A court in Madrid acquitted Spain's renowned human rights judge Baltasar Garzon on Monday of breaching the terms of an amnesty by trying to investigate atrocities committed during the Franco era.

Six members of the seven-panel bench came out in favour of acquitting the 56-year-old, according to an official at the court in the Spanish capital.

Mr. Garzon has argued that the atrocities, including the disappearance of more than 100,000 people during the 1936-39 Civil War and General Francisco Franco's dictatorship that ended in 1975, were crimes against humanity and not subject to a 1977 amnesty voted through by Parliament.

Monday's decision came two weeks after the court quashed a bribe-taking case against Mr. Garzon, ruling that a three-year statute of limitations had passed in the case.

Mr. Garzon had been accused of soliciting sponsorship payments for lectures he gave in New York from five institutions, four of which had been probed in his own courtroom or other courtrooms in the National Court. But Mr. Garzon was handed an 11-year suspension from the bench earlier this month after he was convicted of illegally ordering wiretaps in a separate corruption case.

The 56-year-old, who came to fame with his efforts to extradite Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet from London in 1998, has also taken on Basque militants and even the al-Qaeda.

His supporters argue that the recent court cases against him were inspired by a desire for revenge on behalf of his enemies.

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