Powerful judge leads Assange legal team

July 25, 2012 at 2:30 AM
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LONDON, July 25 (UPI) -- The judge who indicted Chilean ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet will lead a legal team for WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange, the whistle-blowing Web site said.

Baltasar Garzon, a former Spanish jurist who investigated some of Spain's most important criminal cases -- including terrorism, organized crime and money laundering -- will defend the Australian activist and his Web site "from the existing abuse of process [and] expose the arbitrary, extrajudicial actions by the international financial system" against Assange and the site, WikiLeaks said in a statement approved by both men.

Garzon will show how alleged "secret U.S. processes" against Assange and WikiLeaks "have compromised and contaminated other legal processes, including the extradition process" against Assange, said the Web site's statement, posted on Twitter Tuesday.

Washington had no immediate comment on the allegation.

Garzon came to international attention Oct. 10, 1998, when he issued an international warrant for the arrest of Pinochet for the alleged deaths and torture of Spanish citizens. In 2010 he was accused by influential political and union leaders associated with late Spanish dictator Francisco Franco of overstepping his authority when he investigated alleged Francoist crimes.

He was cleared of wrongdoing in February but was expelled from judicial activity for 11 years -- a sentence Garzon vowed to appeal to the Constitutional Court of Spain, the highest judicial body regarding constitutionality.

"So Garzon, who is widely believed in Spain to be the victim of a plot, is representing Assange, who also alleges he is a victim of a plot," Maria Elena Ferrer, a political author and principal of the non-partisan Humanamente consulting firm of Valencia, Spain, and suburban New York, told United Press International Tuesday night.

WikiLeaks said Garzon recently met with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to discuss a "new legal strategy."

Assange has been holed up in the embassy since June 19 in a bid for political asylum in the South American country, to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual molestation, coercion and rape made by two women.

Assange has consistently denied the accusations and suggested they are part of a global conspiracy to silence him. He has not been charged with any crime.

Unconfirmed reports cited by The New York Times indicate a secret grand jury hearing in Alexandria, Va., was considering a U.S. Justice Department bid to charge Assange with espionage.

Leaked e-mails from Strategic Forecasting Inc., a global intelligence company commonly known as Stratfor, suggest a sealed indictment is ready to be made public when U.S. officials determine the legal proceedings against Assange in Britain and Sweden come to a close.

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