MADRID (AFP) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will appeal to the International Court of Justice if Britain blocks his exit to Ecuador, renowned Spanish rights lawyer Baltasar Garzon said Thursday.
Garzon, who is helping Assange’s defence, told Spanish daily El Pais that Britain had a legal obligation to allow his client to leave the country once Ecuador granted him diplomatic asylum.
“What the United Kingdom must do is apply the diplomatic obligations of the Refugee Convention and let him leave, giving him safe conduct,” the former judge said.
“Otherwise, we will go to the International Court of Justice.”
Garzon, best known for trying to extradite Chile’s Augusto Pinochet from London to Madrid on human rights charges in 1998, criticised Britain’s threat to arrest Assange at Ecuador’s London embassy where he has taken refuge.
Garzon said this was a threat of “invasion”.
Britain is obliged to abide by the Refugee Convention and to respect the “risk being run by a person who is a victim of political persecution,” he said, according to the paper’s online edition.
Garzon was speaking from the Dominican Republic where he was to attend the swearing-in of incoming president Danilo Medina, El Pais said.
The former judge, who was barred from the judiciary in Spain in February for exceeding his authority in probing a corruption case, held a long conversation with Assange, 41, on Wednesday evening, the paper said.
“He was very confident that they would give him asylum, as they did. He seemed very calm and in good spirits. He knows he is in the right,” Garzon was quoted as saying.
Garzon told El Pais in another interview earlier this month that he was convinced the attempted extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in a sexual assault case, was a ploy.
The Spanish lawyer said he believed it was a way of allowing the United States to exact “political revenge” by extraditing Assange and trying him for leaks that affected US government institutions, published on his whistleblowing site WikiLeaks.
Garzon reportedly said he believed Assange’s life was in danger because there were people who wanted to stop him releasing further sensitive information.