Baltasar Garzon, Spanish human rights investigator disbarred as a judge on Thursday , announced he would appeal against his sentence, and launched a fierce attack on the Supreme Court judges who found him guilty of illegal wiretapping.

“I will take whatever legal measures are necessary to fight this sentence and will take all possible actions to try to minimise the irreparable damage done,” he said. “Throughout this case my rights have been systematically violated — in order to reach a sentence that was effectively decided on months ago.” Having already been tried in the top court, however, he cannot ask for a retrial. He can only appeal to Spain's constitutional court or to the European court of human rights. Experts said neither could quash the sentence, though they could chastise the Supreme Court for trampling on his rights, and order compensation.

In an extreme case, the Supreme Court might decide to repeat the trial, but experts said that had happened only once in recent memory. “This will not affect his disbarment or the guilty verdict,” said Mariola Urrea, a law professor at the University of La Rioja.

Mr. Garzon's lawyer, Javier Baena, said: “We shall carry on fighting. We have a long road ahead, but I believe both he and I are more than strong enough.” Mr. Garzon was stung by the court's affirmation that he had behaved as if working for a totalitarian regime, fishing indiscriminately for evidence and trampling on defendants' rights by wiretapping jail conversations with defence lawyers.

“I have always strictly complied with the rules, I have defended the rights of defendants and victims in very adverse situations,” he said.

Speculation was rife about what Mr. Garzon would do next. He can work as a lawyer in Spain, lecture or take up advisory positions like the role he held in 2010 at the international criminal court in The Hague. He might return to politics. Mr. Garzon was an independent parliamentary deputy on the Socialist party's benches from 1993 to 1994, but later fell out with the party and resigned.

There was concern that the Supreme Court decision endangered the so-called Gurtel corruption case that Mr. Garzon was investigating when he ordered the wiretapping. That case involved numerous members of the People's party of the Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy.

“I imagine the defence lawyers will try to get some of the evidence struck out, but there is a lot more evidence that would remain valid,” said Mr. Urrea. Mr. Garzon said: “This sentence eliminates all chances of investigating corruption and its associated crimes, opening up an area of impunity, and compromises, in its aim of getting rid of one particular judge, the independence of Spain's judiciary.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2012

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