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Spain May Open Torture Probe Of Six Bush Officials

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2006

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in February 2006

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A top Spanish court has moved toward starting a probe of six former Bush administration officials, including ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in connection with alleged torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, "The New York Times" has reported.

The criminal investigation would focus on whether they violated international law by providing a legalistic justification for torture at the U.S. detention camp in Cuba, the paper said.

The paper said the National Court in Madrid had assigned the case to judge Baltasar Garzon, known for ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Garzon has accepted the case and sent it to the prosecutor's office for review, the newspaper said, citing an official close to the case.

The complaint, prepared by Spanish lawyers with the help of U.S. and European legal experts, also names John Yoo, the former Justice Department lawyer who wrote secret legal opinions saying the president had the authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions, and Douglas Feith, the former under secretary of defense for policy.

Spain can claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they were tortured there.

The other Americans named are William Haynes II, former general counsel for the Department of Defense; Jay Bybee, Yoo's former boss at the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and David Addington, chief of staff and legal adviser to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Yoo, already the subject of a Justice Department ethics investigation, declined to comment to "The New York Times." The others either could not be reached or did not immediately respond to requests for comment, the paper said.

Gonzalo Boye, a Madrid lawyer who filed the complaint, said the six Americans had well-documented roles in approving illegal interrogation techniques, redefining torture and abandoning the definition set by the 1984 Torture Convention, the newspaper said.