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Assange and Garzón: what took them so long?

The Wikileaks founder has hired the services of Spain’s best-known magistrate, with whom he has plenty in common.


Baltasar Garzón and Julian Assange.

Separated at birth? Baltasar Garzón and Julian Assange.

The news that Julian Assange has requested the services of Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón to represent him as he seeks political asylum in Ecuador was unexpected, but the teaming up of these two men does, in a way, make perfect sense.

Wikileaks founder Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June. He hopes to be given refuge by the South American country and avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault charges and, he claims, the possibility of being handed over to the United States to face accusations of espionage.

Assange is a globetrotting maverick who has uncovered corruption and abuse and claims to have been framed by trumped-up legal charges and even to be the target of death threats. But now he’s not alone, because his new lawyer would just as easily fit that same description.

The man who went after Augusto Pinochet, Osama Bin Laden, ETA terrorists, drug barons, crooked politicians and even members of the Franco regime, has been a dynamic and singular figure in Spain’s bureaucracy-heavy and tribal legal system.

He sees a clear-cut cause in representing Assange and has spoken out before in favour of Wikileaks.

Critics, however, will see a more striking similarity between the two men: overwhelming vanity and a delight in hogging the limelight.

Garzón was banned from working as a magistrate earlier this year for authorising the wiretapping of conversations between lawyers and their clients who were being investigated for corruption. But the Assange case would appear tailor-made for him: it could hardly have a higher profile and it has the kind of international dimension the Spanish judge relishes, as well as the symbolism of the crusading little man versus a sinister judiciary.

It’s a wonder it took them this long to team up.

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Published: Jul 26 2012
Category: Iberoblog, Featured
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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