WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hired human rights champion and former Spanish judge Baltazar Garzón to fight what he fears is an American scheme to eventually try him for revealing a stash of secret documents.
International jurist Mr. Garzón, who was recently disbarred in Spain, “has expressed serious concerns regarding the lack of safeguards and transparency, and the harassment [Assange] is being subjected to,” says a statement released late yesterday evening on Twitter by WikiLeaks.
“There is clear political intentionality behind this affair,” Garzón was quoted on Wednesday in a Spanish radio station, citing “the great job [Assange] has done with his organization.”
Garzón met Mr. Assange “recently” in Ecuador’s embassy in London, according to the statement. In June, Assange sought refuge there to avoid what would have been an imminent extradition to Sweden over rape allegations, although he hasn’t been formally charged. Ecuador has said it will take as long as it wants to make a decision. The UK has a pending arrest warrant for breaking his bail terms.
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said Assange “has the right to hire and look for the legal advice that he needs or may need for the asylum request.”
Assange respects the judicial process, Garzón said. “We want and demand guarantees that the process he is facing is really just.”
The United States has not charged Assange either, but the Obama administration has publicly denounced him for allegedly putting lives in danger for disclosing thousands of secret documents compromising intelligence operations and sources, on top of angering a myriad of governments over embarrassing revelations.
US Army Private Bradley Manning is facing a court martial, among other reasons, for “aiding the enemy” when he allegedly leaked documents to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks and its supporters contend that their revelations are protected under free speech and a legitimate vehicle in defense of transparency.
Garzón will defend both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange from “the existing abuse of process; expose the arbitrary, extrajudicial actions, and show how the secret US processes have compromised and contaminated other legal processes, including the extradition process.” He also accused the UK and Sweden for being complicit in “wrongfully abrogating [Assange’s] rights.”
Spain’s Supreme Court in February disbarred Garzón for illegally ordering wiretappings, in effect ending his career. As a judge, Garzón rose to celebrity status for his relentless quixotic battles against South American dictators, terrorism, drug lords, and US sanctioned torture in Guantanamo.
He is not new to the UK legal system either. In 2008, he ordered the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and unsuccessfully tried to have him extradited to face charges for human rights violations.
Later that year Garzón opened a controversial investigation for human rights violations during Spain’s Civil War that ended in 1939. Several extreme-right organizations soon filed three separate complaints against him, one of them related to his attempt to unearth the remains of over 100,000 people killed during the conflict.
Garzón is trying to appeal his disbarment. He opened a legal firm in Madrid and is still involved in human rights advocacy, but in an advisory role.