Falun Gong files case against Jiang Zemin in Spain

Members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement filed a criminal complaint against China's former President Jiang Zemin and top official Luo Gan in Spain on Wednesday, accusing them of overseeing genocide and torture.

The complaint was filed in Spain's High Court and seeks to take advantage of Spanish laws granting its judges universal jurisdiction in cases alleging crimes such as genocide.

''A criminal complaint has been filed this morning for acts that...may constitute genocide and torture against followers of Falun Gong,'' lawyer Carlos Iglesia told a news conference.

''For the last four years, possibly one of the greatest violations of human rights since World War II has been happening in China,'' he said.

The complaint was filed on behalf of 15 people from countries including Australia, China, the United States and Spain who say they are victims of what they call China's persecution of Falun Gong.

It alleges that Luo, a Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member responsible for state security, and Jiang, who remains head of China's armed forces despite stepping down as president, were responsible for the crackdown on Falun Gong.

Iglesia said the goals of the complaint were to ''stop the persecution'' and to ensure the alleged crimes against Falun Gong members did not go unpunished.

The Falun Gong movement was banned in 1999 by Chinese authorities which label it an ''evil cult.'' It combines a mixture of Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese breathing exercises with the ideas of its founder Li Hongzhi.

Iglesia alleged that between 800 and 2,000 people had been tortured and murdered in China since 1999 for their belief in Falun Gong and that around 200,000 people had been sent to forced labour camps.

One of the plaintiffs, Dai Zhizhen, an Australian citizen, said her husband was murdered two-and-a-half years ago because he went to Beijing to deliver a letter praising Falun Gong.

''Only for this he was detained by the police, jailed, tortured and murdered,'' the woman said, clutching her three-year-old daughter and speaking through an interpreter.

The next legal step is to see whether Spain's High Court accepts the case. One of the court's judges is Baltasar Garzon, best known for seeking to try former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in Spain, though there is no guarantee he will get the case.

A human rights abuse lawsuit filed by Falun Gong members against Jiang in Belgium was thrown out last week.

A Chinese embassy spokesman in Madrid could not immediately be reached for comment.