Well known for issuing an international arrest warrant for a former Chilean dictator in 1998, Baltasar Garzón is now firmly in WikiLeaks' corner. Updated with video.
Garzón met with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the whistleblower has been in residence for around a month, awaiting possible political asylum in Ecuador and avoiding extradition to Sweden.
Garzón will now be leading the WikiLeaks defense team and during the meeting, they discussed their new legal strategy.
Baltasar Garzón is an international jurist, prominent Spanish lawyer, and former judge in Spain's central criminal court. He became famous for issuing an international arrest warrant for the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet in 1998. This arrest revolutionized the international justice system and triggered a widespread fight against inpunity in Latin America and the rest of the world.
For almost 30 years, Garzón has tackled the most complex and controversial of cases and has won notoriety, as well as enemies among Spain's ruling class. His investigations have implicated or targeted many politicians right across the spectrum over the years. In 2008, Garzón was in trouble when he formally declared Spain's Franco regime to have committed crimes against humanity and ordered the exhumation of 19 unmarked graves in the country.
He was also the examining magistrate of the Juzgado Central de Instrucción No. 5, which investigates the most important criminal cases in Spain, including terrorism, organised crime, and money laundering.
Garzón and Assange met to discuss the new legal strategy to be used to defend both Assange and WikiLeaks from the existing abuse of process, and also to expose the arbitrary, extrajudicial actions by the international financial system, which is targeting both Assange and WikiLeaks.
Digital Journal recently reported that some moves had recently been made to enable WikiLeaks to receive donations. The first win was in Iceland, where the court ruled that the local Visa representatives must receive payments for WikiLeaks. The second was in France, where arrangements were made for donations through a French non-profit, France's Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality (Fonds de Défense de la Net Neutralité), who has set up a Carte Bleue fund for WikiLeaks.
However, WikiLeaks is now short of funds, and there is a need to do more about the blockade by Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and other financial institutions.
Garzón and Assange also discussed how Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have been compromised by other legal processes, including the existing extradition order to Sweden, which necessitated the appeal for political asylum for Assange in Ecuador.
Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, told reporters in Quito yesterday, "Mr. Assange has requested the services of lawyer Baltasar Garzón to deal with his case. ... Of course he has the right to hire and look for the legal advice that he needs or may need for the asylum request."
Patino welcomes Garzón's involvement in the case, as the Ecuadorean government has "a very good relationship" with the jurist. Garzón is apparently part of an international panel set up to oversea the ongoing judicial overhaul in Ecuador.
It has now been more than a month since Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, seeking asylum. Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has reiterated that his government will take “a decision based on humanistic principles that illuminate our revolution, which illuminate our constitution.” However, so far no decision has been announced.
While the deadline set by the U.K. High Court ran out on July 7, Assange insists that he will remain in the embassy until a decision has been made on his request for political asylum in Ecuador. Assange denies any wrongdoing in Sweden and says he fears that if extradited there, he could be sent on to the United States, where he believes he could face criminal charges punishable by death.
Garzón has voiced concern over the lack of safeguards and transparency in actions being taken against Assange. He stresses that the whistleblower is being "subjected to harassment, which is causing irreparable damage to his physical and mental wellbeing."