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Internationally Acclaimed Spanish Judge Disbarred

Baltazar Garzon, once widely regarded as Spain's most prominent magistrate, leaves the Supreme Court in Madrid, January 17, 2012.

Spain's Supreme Court has disbarred a crusading judge known for pursuing dictators and others accused of violating human rights.

Judge Baltazar Garzon was disbarred for 11 years, after being found guilty of illegally recording conversations between defense attorneys and their clients. The high court said that such actions "these days are only found in totalitarian regimes."

Garzon is perhaps best known for using international human rights law to order the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. He also indicted terror mastermind Osama bin Laden in 2003.

The ruling effectively ends the 56-year-old judge's legal career in Spain. He also still faces a possible fine of up to $3,300.

Garzon's supporters rallied late Thursday in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid, carrying signs and chanting "shame, shame." One supporter called the Supreme Court ruling an "international embarrassment."

The International Commission of Jurists also condemned Garzon's conviction.

The judge still faces charges in two other cases, which supporters say is proof that his enemies are trying to silence him.

In the first, he is accused of violating a 1977 amnesty law by ordering an investigation into the disappearance of tens of thousands of people during the rule of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. In the second, Garzon is charged with dropping an investigation into one of Spain's biggest banks after the bank paid for human rights seminars.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.