Celebrated Spanish judge Garzon to head Assange legal team

Famous Spanish human rights investigator Baltasar Garzon will lead the legal team representing WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, the whistleblower website announced on Tuesday.

Assange is currently at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, seeking political asylum in the Latin American country, after losing his legal battle to avoid extradition to face questions over rape and sexual assault claims in Sweden.

Garzon, best known for issuing an international arrest warrant against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, recently met with Assange at the embassy to discuss a new legal strategy, according to a statement approved by both men.

According to the release, the aim is to "defend both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange from the existing abuse of process and expose the arbitrary, extrajudicial actions by the international financial system" against the former hacker and his website.

Garzon will also strive to "show how the secret US processes against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have compromised and contaminated other legal processes, including the extradition process against Mr Assange," it added.

The judge has previously voiced concern over the alleged lack of safeguards and transparency involved in actions against Assange.

WikiLeaks and Assange enraged the United States by publishing a flood of secret information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The website founder fears that if extradited to Sweden, he will be subsequently re-extradited to the United States to stand trial for espionage, on account of the 250,000 US diplomatic cables that were published on the Wikileaks website.

Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa, who has often been at odds with Washington and offered Assange asylum in 2010, has said that the South American country will take its time considering the application.

Garzon was in February disbarred from his role as an investigating magistrate in Spain after he was found to have wiretapped conversations between defence lawyers and their clients.

He has said he will appeal to the Constitutional Court of Spain against his expulsion.

In 2008, the former jurist formally declared Spain's Franco regime to have committed crimes against humanity and ordered the exhumation of 19 unmarked graves.

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