Suspended Spanish High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón, the lawyer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, appeared before the press outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Sunday to say that he has requested guarantees from Sweden that his client will not be extradited to the United States if he travels to the Scandinavian country to answer questions relating to sexual assault allegations.
The high-profile judge, who began his statement in English before switching to Spanish — to the confusion of many British journalists on the scene — also said he would take all legal measures necessary to defend his client.
“\[Assange\] has never avoided answering to Sweden, he is only asking for guarantees that have not been met,” said Garzón.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy for two months to avoid extradition to Sweden. He was granted asylum by the government of President Rafael Correa last Thursday.
Garzón categorically denied that his defense team was involved in any negotiations for Assange’s departure from the British capital to Sweden. “There are no negotiations. At least that I know of because it is not our job, it is not our responsibility to negotiate,” he stated.
He said Assange was in “fighting spirits” and thankful to “the people of Ecuador and, especially, to its president” for granting him asylum, adding his client was a defender of freedom and human rights and a victim of “political persecution.”
Garzón said Assange had “given orders to begin the legal battle to obtain safe conduct and protect the fundamental rights of my client, WikiLeaks and all those involved.”
Assange himself later appeared on the balcony of the embassy to deliver a speech in which he called on the US to end its “witch hunt” against the WikiLeaks website, which published extracts of US diplomatic cables in 2010.
Garzón was barred from office in Spain for 11 years in February for illegally wiretapping conversations between lawyers and defendants as part of a corruption trial.