Those exposed by WikiLeaks should be investigated, not Assange – whistleblower’s legal team head
Garzon, a renowned human rights judge who sat on Spain’s central criminal court and once indicted Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, said in an interview to RT Spanish that while Sweden dropping charges against the WikiLeaks co-founder is a welcome step, the main threat to his freedom comes from Washington.
“He [Assange] is satisfied, but, in his own words, the war only begins now. We understood that Sweden was merely a tool in the fight against the freedom of speech. This [role] is the main occupation of the US,” Garzon said.
Assange’s legal team has been preparing to use all means available to gain the upper hand in a possible legal battle, including UN resolutions and international law “in the hopes that this country, despite all its power, admits that neither Julian Assange, nor WikiLeaks, nor freedom of speech advocates are to blame for its woes,” Garzon said.
Those who should be held accountable are not whistleblowers and their sources, he argued, but those “ham-fisted leaders who neglected their responsibility to protect freedom and security in the society.”
The ones who should be “investigated and persecuted” are “those who were exposed by WikiLeaks,” he said.
Not much is known about the clandestine proceedings allegedly underway in Virginia, Garzon said, noting that all the scant data they managed to obtain was received through information leaks and that they continue to be in the dark about the status of the proceedings.
“Since 2010, the US has been carrying out a secret investigation against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for revealing secret materials, for the fight for the freedom of speech and information,” Garzon said, adding that as far as he is aware, no charges have been brought against his client at this point.
As for the UK police warning that Assange would be arrested for failing to surrender to the British courts back in June 2012, Garzon believes it only serves as a pretext to limit his freedom of movement, barring him from leaving the embassy.
“I believe that it is against the law, because he did not breach any pre-trial restrictions. He was on the embassy’s territory, because he was granted political asylum. He obtained refugee status. That is to say, this situation goes against the law,” the lawyer said. He went on to say that the British police failed to inform Assange that this sort of proceedings had been opened against him during his five-year stay in the embassy.
“I believe that Ecuador’s protection is a priority at the moment. Neither court, nor police have any proof of Julian Assange’s guilt. He must be permitted to leave immediately,” the lawyer said, adding that the British government appears to be eager to bend the law instead of following it in the case of his client.
Garzon said that the legal team is prepared to go to great lengths to enlist the support of the UN, the government of Ecuador, and even the UK government in order to end Assange’s self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
At present, however, no timelines can be set.
“Frankly speaking, we don’t know yet,” he said.
On Saturday, a documentary titled Hacking Justice about the legal battle for Assange was presented at a film festival in Barcelona, featuring Baltasar Garzon as the chief protagonist. Filmmaker and cinema historian Clara López Rubio, who directed the film and has been following Assange’s story for the last five years, told RT they made the film because it was “very important” for the freedom of speech and the freedom of information.
“It was really a great opportunity to be present in a case that is very important for the future of the freedom of speech, for the freedom of information. That was the reason why we made the film,” Rubio said, adding that she hopes the defense team will emerge victorious in the long run.
Since the Swedish prosecutors dropped the charges against Assange, it is time to shift focus on “what really matters… the US investigation that is taking place now,” Rubio said.
‘Sucking up to Saudis is long US tradition, every president does it’
Prior to Donald Trump’s first foreign trip as president, RT spoke to author and investigative journalist Max Blumenthal and discussed Trump’s long-standing ties to Saudi Arabia, the implications of the unprecedented $100-billion arms deal, and the impact of this visit on US policy.
Max Blumenthal: Trump, during the campaign, blamed Saudi Arabia – and, I would argue, somewhat correctly – for playing a role in the 9/11 attacks, the greatest terrorist attack on American soil. At the same time, he was inking – while on the campaign trail – he was inking deals with eight hotel interests in Saudi Arabia to deepen his business ties. I mean hotels, casinos – a lot of it has to do with money laundering and Trump is really a master of that. The Gulf States have these great sovereign wealth funds, and Trump and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, want to tap into those. So, the ties are deep between Trump and the Saudis, far deeper than other foreign countries which we hear a lot about.
RT: That took a lot of guts then for him to bad-mouth them out of one side of his mouth, and then broker deals out of the other side.
MB: His supporters didn’t seem to care and they still don’t seem to care, and neither does the liberal resistance. This trip doesn’t raise the same amount of alarm that Trump receiving Philippines leader Duterte did. I find that interesting because here we have another authoritarian leader, Prince Salman, who Trump is going to meet with and overlook any human rights abuses within the kingdom.
RT: No noise from the left or the right on this particular issue…
MB: This is bipartisan consensus that this is A-OK.
RT: Human rights groups though have expressed concerns that that Trump won’t raise the issue of human rights abuses with King Salman. How do you think this particular visit will influence US policy in terms of how Saudi Arabia is interacting in Yemen and Syria?
MB: Saudi Arabia has always been key to imperial interests in the Middle East going back to the high colonial days of the British Empire, and now the American Empire sees Saudi Arabia as its bulwark, supporting Israel’s advancing hostility to Iran and Yemen and abroad. And weapon sales are key to all of this. You can talk about the internal human rights abuses, the fact that Waleed Abulkhair, the Saudi human rights lawyer, has been jailed for 15 years; Ali Al Nimr, the son of the executed cleric, is in jail; Raif Badawi, the Saudi atheist, is in jail; women are not allowed to drive; the treatment of foreign workers – Trump is not going to bring these aspects up. Then you have Saudi Arabia’s pulverization of Yemen, where civilians are being treated like protesters outside of the Turkish ambassador’s residence by Erdogan’s bodyguards. It is just getting absolutely pulverized.
We saw a report yesterday that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, actually called Lockheed Martin to ask them to give Saudi Arabia a bargain-basement deal on this $100 billion arms transfer which may represent the largest arms deal in American history and that those weapons are going to be used against Yemeni civilians in a country which really represents the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
According to political cartoonist Ted Rall, Trump is not the first American president who “sucks up to the Saudis.”
“Obviously, the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US has always been centered around Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth of approximately 40 billion barrels of proven reserves. It is still the world’s largest oil producing country… It has to do with oil, it has to do with arms sales. And you have to wonder if there are personal business reasons for Trump to be doing business in Saudi Arabia: hotels and so on. It is all possible, money obviously ties into it,” he told RT.
However, he added, “it would be unfair not to point out that he is not the first American president to suck up to the Saudis.”
“Every president does it: Democrat, Republican, Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, they all do it, they’ve done it since the 1950s. There is nothing new here. This is just the continuation of a relationship that is particularly sordid given the fact that the US is constantly lecturing other countries about human rights and Saudi Arabia is pretty much one of the worst countries on the planet when it comes to human rights,” Rall said.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.