BY:ROSANNE BARRETT From:The Australian August 23, 2012 3:19PM
JULIAN Assange’s lawyer has declared Australia has not met its obligation to provide consular assistance and has failed to respond to a recent request from the WikiLeaks founder.
Former judge magistrate of Spain’s central criminal court Baltasar Garzon Real questioned whether Australia would have provided the diplomatic assistance if Assange was only facing his Swedish sexual assault charges, and was not implicated with the international WikiLeaks controversy.
The Australian citizen remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, two months after he sought refuge following a court order that he be returned to Sweden to answer the rape charges.
Speaking through an interpreter in Brisbane today, Mr Garzon said Assange’s defence team sent a letter to Australian authorities 15 days ago but had not heard back.
“At no point in time have consular authorities visited Mr Assange and I understand that to be an obligation for citizens, for men and women in Australia, have the right to consular assistance and they should not have to request it,” Mr Garzon said.
“It is indeed an obligation by the state for their citizens not only in Australia but the world over.
“Given my personal experience that in 99.9 per cent of all cases consuls are always in attendance in extradition matters.”
Mr Garzon said he “would not dare to question why” but suggested Assange was out of favour with the authorities.
“Relations are not good with Mr Assange, quite likely given the WiliLeaks affairs and not only strictly in terms of the Swedish affairs,” he said.
“Perhaps I daresay that if it had only been the Swedish affairs that consular assistance would have taken place.”
Mr Garzon – speaking after delivering the keynote address at the International Council on Archives Congress – said Australia had also rejected earlier requests for assistance.
“A letter has been sent on behalf of the defence in the UK to diplomatic authorities and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Australia of Australia requesting a number of guarantees as well as information,” he said.
“The response has been entirely negative.”
Last week the Australian government rejected claims it had not had contact with Assange.
A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Bob Carr said officials had spoken with Ecuadorian embassy staff eight times before the South Americans granted the WikiLeaks founder asylum.
The spokesperson said Australia offered assistance but he declined.
Assange, an Australian citizen, fears he will be sent to the US to face charges over his release through WikiLeaks of thousands confidential US and other governmental cables on the internet.
Two years ago after leaving Sweden police released a warrant for his arrest on rape charges, sparking his court action in Britain.
Mr Garzon said Assange was well doing well as a “refugee” in the Ecuadorean embassy but his team were seeking further humanitarian assistance as he was kept in a room without full sunlight, which could be damaging to his health.
“He is indeed a citizen of Australia and has therefore all his rights, however seemingly they are not being adhered to,” he said.
Mr Garzon said there would be more “surprises” to come in the case.