Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblower portal and media website WikiLeaks, has hired famed Spanish lawyer Baltasar Garzón to spearhead his legal team as he seeks political asylum in Ecuador, the country's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said on Tuesday.
Wikileaks confirmed that Garzón joined the legal team and in a statement said the international jurist -- well-known in human rights circles for issuing an arrest warrant for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet -- recently met recently with Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in Lonon, where he remains pending a response to his asylum request.
"The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the new legal strategy which will defend both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange from the existing abuse of process; expose the arbitrary, extrajudicial actions by the international financial system which target Julian Assange and WikiLeaks specifically," said the statement.
Wikileaks went on to say that despite been imprisoned, fiscally blockaded, and placed under house arrest for over 650 days, Mr. Assange has not been charged with an offense in any country.
Garzón, the statement added, will strive to "show how the secret US processes against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have compromised and contaminated other legal processes, including the extradition process against Mr. Assange."
Assange, who has been in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for over a month, enraged Washington and other world leaders in 2010 when his website published secret US diplomatic cables that exposed the inner thinking of some of the world's most corrupt governments. Previously, Wikileaks had released a trove of US military files, including video footage of US soldiers gunning down innocent civilians in Iraq, among them a Reuters photographer and others who rushed to the scene to help the wounded.
Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden in cases of sexual assault. He denies any wrongdoing, but contends that Sweden has not provided any assurances that if he submits to questioning he would not subsequently be re-extradited to the United States to stand trial for dubious "espionage" charges.
Garzón, according to Wikileaks, has expressed serious concerns regarding the lack of safeguards and transparency whith which actions are being taken against Julian Assange, and the harassment he is being subjected to which has irreparable effects on his physical and mental wellbeing.
"The threats against his person are further aggravated by the complicit behaviour of the Swedish and U.K. governments, who are wrongfully abrogating his rights," the group said.
# # #