Judge Baltasar Garzon’s crusades against dictators and terrorists have made him a polarising figure in his native Spain.
He is lauded by human rights campaigners for taking on some of the world’s most high-profile criminals.
But critics say the silver-haired jurist’s work is only driven egotism and his own personal grievances.
He started his career in the judiciary in 1988, becoming the youngest ever magistrate in the Spain’s National Court in Madrid at 32.
Garzon built a reputation in his role for cracking down on organised crime, terrorist networks and drug smuggling.
In 1993, he made a short-lived foray into politics, briefing sitting in the Spanish parliament and serving as the government’s anti-drugs czar.
On returning to law, Garzon investigated ex-Atheltic Madrid owner Jesus Gil for corruption and the state-backed death squads that operated in the Basque region.
In 1998, the judge achieved worldwide notoriety when he attempted to try Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in Spain under the universal jurisdiction principle.
Another sabbatical from the legal profession followed shortly afterwards as he took up a teaching position at the presitgious New York University
But it is his controversial attempts to probe into Spain’s murky Franco-era past that could prove a step too far as he faces court over allegations he overreached his powers.