Maverick judge to defend Wikileaks founder
JULIAN ASSANGE, the founder of Wikileaks, has hired Spain’s best-known and most controversial judge to represent him in his bid to secure political asylum in Ecuador.
Ecuador’s foreign ministry said former High Court magistrate Baltasar Garzón would handle the case.
In a statement posted on its twitter account, Wikileaks confirmed the news and said the new legal strategy would defend Mr Assange “from the existing abuse of process [and] expose the arbitrary, extrajudicial actions by the international financial system which target Julian Assange and Wikileaks”.
Mr Assange set up the whistleblowing website Wikileaks in 2006, since when it has published thousands of classified documents, in many cases to the outrage of the governments affected.
Speaking on Spanish radio yesterday, Mr Garzón spoke of “the great work [Assange] has done through his organisation when it comes to denouncing the abuses of corruption”.
Swedish authorities are seeking to extradite Mr Assange from London to face charges of sexual assault and rape from 2010. Australia-born Mr Assange denies the accusations and has warned that if extradited, he could be turned over to the United States and face espionage charges.
He claims the charges against him are motivated by US government anger at Wikileaks’ publishing of sensitive files. Yesterday, Mr Garzón echoed this argument, saying there were “clear political intentions” behind the lawsuit against his client.
In June Mr Assange broke his bail terms and requested political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Mr Garzón agreed to take on his case after meeting the Wikileaks founder in the embassy.
Mr Garzón is no stranger to controversy. In February, he was banned from practising in Spain after being found guilty of misconduct for wiretapping conversations between lawyers and defendants in a corruption case. In another case earlier this year, he was cleared of overstepping his powers after attempting to investigate the crimes of the right-wing dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who died in 1975.
Mr Garzón became a High Court magistrate in his early 30s and made waves by pursuing a series of high-profile cases. Critics have often accused him of being a “celebrity judge” who seeks the limelight.