MADRID (AP) — Spain is opening a probe into Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau on suspicion of terrorism and crimes against humanity, under the legal principle of universal justice, according to a court ruling Thursday.
The probe refers to an attack by the Nigerian militant group on Ganye, an eastern Nigerian town, in 2013 when a Spanish nun was subjected to molestation and coercion, National Court judge Fernando Andreu said in his ruling.
The nun, Maria Jesus Mayor, managed to escape and was rescued by Nigerian intelligence officers, the ruling said.
The court ruling asked authorities to locate the nun so she can testify and requested information on Boko Haram from the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.
Spain tightened its law on universal justice last year, with a legal reform stipulating a Spanish victim must be involved. Before that, the principle was famously used by former judge Baltasar Garzon in his attempts to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Spain has launched numerous probes under the universal justice principle, but most of them run into a dead-end because of the difficulty in arresting and extraditing the accused. Often the cases have brought diplomatic troubles for the government, such as a 2013 investigation in which the National Court issued arrest orders for former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and four other officials as part of a probe into alleged genocide by China against Tibet.
Last year's legal reform halted all open investigations.
The Boko Haram extremist group is waging a nearly 6-year insurgency to impose Muslim Shariah law in Nigeria.