Assange lawyer claims vital info in rape case
Melbourne: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's lawyer on Thursday claimed that he had key information which would be a "big surprise" when revealed if his trial for rape went ahead in Sweden.
Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish lawyer, who was addressing an archivist conference in Brisbane today, spent four hours in a briefing with Assange on Sunday discussing his legal strategy.
The veteran international lawyer, who ran a case against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, was critical of Australian authorities for failing to provide consular assistance to Assange, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Garzon said the Australian government's response to requests for assistance had been "entirely negative".
"A letter has been sent on the part of the defence (of Assange) to diplomatic authorities and the Department of Foreign Affairs of Australia requesting a number of guarantees as well as information," he said through an interpreter.
"The response has been entirely negative for each and every one of the requests and some 15 days ago we have channelled another communication and request to the Australian authorities and for the time being we have not received a response," he said.
"Not at any point in time have consular authorities visited Assange. And I understand that to be an obligation for all citizens of Australia. Men and women of Australia, who happen to find themselves in a similar situation, have the right to consular assistance and they should not be in a position of having to request it," he said.
Garzon refused to divulge the contents of the letter sent to Australian authorities 15 days earlier.
"It's a letter in which a number of issues are being raised in relation to Assange's situation and on the procedure itself," he said.
But he suggested it related to Assange's rights as an Australian citizen not being recognised.
"Although Assange has had his passport withheld and he is a refugee at the Ecuadorian embassy, he is indeed a citizen of Australia and has therefore all his rights, although however seemingly they aren't being adhered to," Garzon said.
When asked about the specific rape allegations facing his client, Garzon declined to go into specifics but said there was "fragmented knowledge" about the matter.
He said the defence was in possession of a number of fundamental elements about the rape allegations, that when made public, would be surprising.
"We cannot divulge them right now but we have requested that the prosecution take a statement from Assange,'' he said.
Garzon speculated the reluctance of Australian authorities to help his client was because "relations are not good with Assange quite likely given the entire WikiLeaks affair".
Garzon said the defence had requested the possibility for a prosecutor from Sweden to travel to London to take a statement from Assange.
"I think that will be a very good option and later on of course we will be willing to listen to the other requirements," he said.
Garzon said Assange was in perfect health, but the living conditions in the embassy were not ideal.
"The treatment is good but a prolonged situation such as that where he has limited space with practically no access to natural light does limit the physical well being of the person and can be deemed a rather concerning humanitarian situation," he said.