MADRID: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrested in London on a US extradition request, is the target of "political persecution," the man coordinating his defence said Thursday.
"There is evident political persecution which started precisely with the massive publication by WikiLeaks in 2010 of cables and very serious information" which Assange had published, including a trove of classified Pentagon documents detailing alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Spanish lawyer Baltasar Garzon.
"The threats against Julian Assange for political reasons, persecution on the part of the United States, are more current than ever," said Garzon, who also accused Ecuador's president of lying about the reasons behind the revoking of Assange's citizenship of the South American state, acquired in 2017.
Assange arrested in London after 7 years in Ecuador embassy, US seeks extradition
Garzon, who has previously described the case against Assange as arbitrary and baseless, is a high-profile human rights investigator who was investigating magistrate when former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was detained in London on a Spanish warrant for extradition to face genocide charges. The British government ultimately rejected extradition on humanitarian grounds in that case.
British police arrested Assange at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he had spent seven years as a recluse, claiming asylum and Ecuadoran nationality, both of which President Lenin Moreno revoked.
A London court hours later found Assange guilty of jumping bail in 2012 while wanted in Sweden on charges of sexual assault which were subsequently dropped.
UN rights experts condemn Assange arrest
"We are very concerned because the Ecuadoran government and in particular its president have not told the truth in the published statement" on Assange, said Garzon, adding that Quito's arguments for justifying his loss of citizenship were "false".
The US Justice Department earlier had said Assange, a 47-year-old Australian, faced a federal charge in the US and a jail term of up to five years for "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer".
The indictment alleges Assange conspired in March 2010 with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, to crack a password stored on Department of Defense computers.