A year without sunlight. That's the amount of time Julian Assange has spent under refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London. While Ecuador has granted him asylum, the UK has not and does not recognize it, and that's the fight the activist's attorneys are involved in. It is about obtaining recognition for said asylum, so that the founder of Wikileaks, the Web portal from which he leaked the secrets of half of the world, can go out to the street without being automatically arrested.
The 41 years old computer programmer, arrested in London in 2010, had to enter the embassy to avoid deportation to Sweden by the British authorities, where he was summoned on sexual assault charges which he denies. Baltasar Garzón, leading the team of attorneys in charge of his defense, talks to 20minutos about him and his battle for the safe-conduct pass, about Edward Snowden (responsible for leaking the secret surveillance programs of the USA and who remains at large), about breaking the law in the USA and about many other issues.
How do you expect the Assange case to be resolved?
We expect our considerations to be acknowledged and recognized. We have carefully set all the different points why he must be granted asylum. Yet, it is a diplomatic issue between two countries (the UK and Ecuador). Assange is the beneficiary of the asylum and the one suffering this confinement because the UK does not recognize this right.
Could the Snowden case develop into a similar situation, that is, with him asking for political asylum as Assange did?
It could happen. Russia has already shown interest as well as we have, the team of attorneys from Wikileaks and myself. We are interested in preserving Snowden's rights and protecting him as a person. What is happening to him and to Assange for informing [the people] is an assault against the people; it is something done following certain techniques that are quite controversial. In Assange's case, there is a political move against him, the facts are not being investigated, and the same happens in Bradley Manning's case (the soldier accused of leaking the information to Assange, currently facing trial by a military tribunal). The process brought by the USA before a secret grand jury with secret evidence breaks every possible law.
And, if this approach doesn't work?
We agree with Ecuador, if this approach does not work, the resolution would have to come through an agreement between the two countries. Assange cannot be a part in it.
So, there is little that can be done...
Awaiting, that's his situation. And the position of his defense: providing arguments so that, once the right of asylum is recognized by Ecuador, this represents a safe-conduct pass by the UK so that he can leave for that country.
This way, he wouldn't be arrested as soon as he leaves the embassy.
But in no way does this mean that Assange refuses to comply with the Swedish law. We have always been in favor of said trial, but meanwhile there is a procedure for asylum.
How is Assange emotionally?
He is well, very firm, convinced that the asylum is going to come into effect. And ready to go on. He is a man of great mental strength, but a year in confinement is very hard. He is doing good emotionally. He holds the conviction he is suffering this injustice because of pursuing his job of informing the public. But a year without feeling a ray of sunlight is very hard. Objectively, the time spent in an enclosed environment without sunlight is very severe.
Do prison inmates have more rights?
Well, there is a humanitarian side the UK should consider. Remaining in the embassy does not mean he should be under these conditions, no matter how well he is being treated inside the embassy. A minimum of sunlight, for instance, would be nice. Well, whatever the sentence that could have been imposed, he would have already served it...
Do you believe in obtaining Assange's asylum?
I expect it to be resolved in the only possible way: political asylum in Ecuador and the Assange will respond as required.
Will you keep defending him?
I have done so from the beginning, altruistically, and I'll continue to do so, in the same way, till the end.
Do you have anything to say about the rumors of a comeback into politics?
Yes, what I have said is that it's time for compromise and for all the people of Spain to do so. That does not mean running for office. I am not worried about that at all, but it seems some people are, it seems to scare them, otherwise, why would they be talking about it?
You have also been in the spotlight because of Alfonso Guerra's book...
It makes me very sad to see a good politician go down because of the rights to a book in which truth is outside of the pages, and which he leaves out and distorts inside it. Luckily for Spain, the time of Alfonso Guerra has already passed.
An urgent change?
Yes, it is necessary to change the way we do politics in order to defend the people. And it must be done right now.