Assange spied on like ‘in a film’, lawyer says
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was spied on while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London like “in a film”, his lawyer Baltasar Garzon said Monday after testifying at a top Spanish court probing the allegations.
Assange, who is in a British prison after being removed from the embassy last year, filed a lawsuit against private Spanish security firm Undercover Global, accusing it of spying on him and passing the information to the United States.
The company was in charge of providing security at the embassy during the bulk of the seven years which the 49-year-old Australian spent inside the building.
Garzon, a prominent former Spanish judge, said he had seen images taken inside of the embassy of Assange talking to his lawyers which were allegedly recorded by the company.
“This is scandalous, we think this only happens in spy movies but this is not a spy movie because someone’s life is at stake,” he told reporters after testifying at Spain’s National Court in Madrid.
Assange has accused the firm of gathering information on him through video cameras and hidden microphones, copying identity documents and monitoring visitors’ mobile phones, and then passing the information to the US intelligence services.
The lawsuit is key to Assange’s efforts to fight an extradition request by the US Justice Department which wants to put him on trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
He risks 175 years in prison if convicted.
Garzon said Assange’s legal team has provided British courts with information about the alleged spying because it has “a direct impact on the extradition and shows, in our view, that Julian Assange was the target of political persecution.”
Assange’s extradition hearing will take place on September 7.
He took refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London in 2012 to avoid separate legal proceedings in Sweden.
Spain’s National Court in June opened an investigation into a complaint by Ecuador’s ex-president Rafael Correa that Undercover Global also spied on him.
Correa accuses the firm, which provided him with security services until 2019, of “monitoring and taking photos” of his meetings with Garzon, who made global headlines in 1998 when former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London.