Baltasar Garzon is no stranger to conflict when it comes to fighting injustice carried out by state powers. In an exclusive interview with RT, the Spanish jurist explained why WikiLeaks founder and whistleblower Julian Assange is “worth defending.”
The seemingly intractable battle between Ecuador and Britain over Julian Assange has brought a spotlight on the dangerous path whistleblowers tread in exposing abuses of state power.
With Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June, the small Latin American country’s decision to grant the WikiLeaks founder political asylum sits in heavy contrast to the fact that he lives under lock and key like a fugitive, in constant fear of arrest.
In the midst of this international standoff, Garzon spoke at length with RT’s sister channel Actualidad RT about why the UK was only bluffing when British authorities threatened to storm the Ecuadorian embassy, why he has no doubt the US is pursuing a case against his client, and the irony that Assange is being persecuted for exposing gross human rights violations, while the perpetuators who committed those criminal acts remain free.
RT: You’ve said that everything that’s happening to Julian Assange is extreme injustice. Why is that?
Baltasar Garzon: It is injustice, because the US is conducting a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks – that’s according to few, but nevertheless very reliable, reports. This case targets mostly Julian Assange, but other founders of the organization are also involved. In this respect, it is absolutely clear to us that such investigation and prosecution of a journalist who was, in essence, just doing his job, violates freedom of speech in the US, a country which prides itself in always defending freedom of speech, a value firmly stipulated in its constitution.
This is a big concern, and largely this was the reason why Julian Assange decided to seek refuge from Sweden in the Ecuadorian embassy, because he knew that he could’ve been extradited to the US. That’s what it was all about. And Ecuador took this responsibility and granted diplomatic and political asylum to Julian Assange. So Mr. Assange and his defense team don’t have to justify this decision – he exercised his fundamental right. It is clear that political asylum was granted, because Julian Assange was facing terrible injustice. And this is what we are fighting against at the moment, and we will continue to fight and prove that there is no reason to prosecute Mr. Assange.
Also, Julian Assange is ready to give his statement, he is ready to be questioned in Sweden, submit himself to other procedures, but only if he is guaranteed that it would not lead to a more complicated case, in which his right to freedom of speech and information would be violated.
RT: Before we talk about his possible extradition to the US, you’ve said that Julian Assange is not avoiding prosecution in Sweden, he is avoiding extradition to the US. You also mentioned that the Swedish case against Julian Assange has no grounds, and the charges that were brought against him are not very clear. What did you mean by that?
BG: I meant that, according to the information we have about this case – the testimony of Julian Assange and some documents that we were able to get our hands on – this case has no grounds. When he came to the UK and the court had not yet ruled on his extradition case, Julian Assange told Swedish prosecutors that he was ready to cooperate. He said that earlier too, even before he left Sweden; he even offered to come back for questioning. And he is still ready to do that, only now he is asking the prosecutor to come to the UK and question him. This is not rebellious behavior. On the other hand, we respect the judicial system of Sweden, we have no objective reasons not to trust it, but we think that their approach is too harsh – they want Julian Assange to come to Sweden for questioning.
RT: In your opinion, why did Sweden take this, as you say, harsh approach? You said that you can accept their terms under one condition. But is there some legal framework for this? How can a country guarantee that it won’t extradite a person into another country in the future?
BG: Nothing is impossible. We, on our part, are doing everything we can. There are two factors here that we are considering. First, the UK is legally obliged to fulfill Sweden’s demands, because the Supreme Court made this ruling. But, we think it is also their obligation to protect Mr. Assange’s right to political asylum. And we think that this right to political asylum needs to be defended and, at this point, we consider it prevalent.
I don’t understand why Julian Assange needs to be present in person at this questioning. That’s their demand, but nobody can explain to us why this has to happen in Sweden, not in London, especially now, when he has been granted political asylum and is under diplomatic protection of the Ecuadorian embassy.
RT: The guarantees have to be determined, so how likely is it that Sweden, being aware that death penalty is practiced in the US, will extradite Assange? Continue reading