Australian authorities appear to have ignored requests by Julian Assange for diplomatic assistance, including a letter sent as recently as 15 days ago, his lawyer said this morning.
Judge Baltasar Garzón Real also revealed key information relating to the rape allegations facing Mr Assange had been kept secret and would be a "big surprise" when the defence team was able to reveal them.
The Spanish lawyer, who was addressing an archivist conference in Brisbane today, spent four hours in a briefing with Mr 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 Mr Assange.
Mr Garzón 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 Mr 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.
"Not at any point in time have consular authorities visited Mr 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."
Mr Garzón 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 Mr Assange's situation and on the procedure itself,'' he said.
But he suggested it related to Mr Assange's rights as an Australian citizen not being recognised.
"Although Mr 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 too,'' Mr Garzón said.
When asked about the specific rape allegations facing his client, Mr Garzón 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 Mr Assange,'' he said.
Mr Garzón speculated the reluctance of Australian authorities to help his client was because "relations are not good with Mr Assange quite likely given the entire WikiLeaks affair".
Mr Garzón said the defence had requested the possibility for a prosecutor from Sweden to travel to London to take a statement from Mr 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.
Mr Garzón said Mr 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.
Comment has been sought from DFAT.
Mr Assange, the 41-year-old founder of WikiLeaks, has been facing extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.
The allegations relate to rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion made by two Swedish women known as woman A and Woman B, whom Mr Assange met in Stockholm in August 2010.
Mr Assange, a former computer programer, has been granted political asylum by Ecuador on the grounds that he feared persecution and the possible death penalty in the United States in connection with leaked top secret government information published by WikiLeaks.
He sought asylum after the British Supreme Court rejected his last appeal in June. He has been living in the Ecaudorian embassy in London ever since.
US HAS NO CASE AGAINST ASSANGE
Despite claims by Julian Assange that Washington is plotting to extradite and execute him, US and European government sources say the United States has issued no criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder and has launched no attempt to extradite him.
Moreover, Obama administration officials remain divided over the wisdom of prosecuting Assange, the sources said, and the likelihood of US criminal charges against him is probably receding rather than growing.
The Obama administration has said Assange's immediate fate is in the hands of Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.
Earlier this year, British authorities obtained a court order authorizing them to extradite Assange to Sweden for questioning in a sexual molestation case.
Assange took refuge in Ecuador's London embassy a few days before his extradition was due to occur and Ecuador last week offered him permanent asylum. British authorities have indicated Assange will be arrested if he leaves the embassy.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Monday that Assange was making "wild assertions about us, when, in fact, his issue with the government of the United Kingdom has to do with whether he's going to go ... face justice in Sweden for something that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks."
"So he is clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue," Nuland said.
Nuland's predecessor, P.J. Crowley, said that by taking refuge in Ecuador's embassy and demanding that the United States "renounce its witch-hunt" against WikiLeaks, Assange made it more difficult for Washington to abandon what officials acknowledge is a continuing US probe of Assange and WikiLeaks.
Crowley said that Assange, in a speech on Saturday from an embassy balcony, had "challenged the president" to close down the investigation. But Assange's demand made it politically more difficult for President Barack Obama to do that, particularly during a presidential election season, he said.
Assange has "painted himself into a corner and he's going to stay there for some time," said Crowley, who resigned after criticizing the government's treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning.
Some US officials initially were keen to bring criminal charges against Assange.
For about 18 months, a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, has investigated alleged contacts between WikiLeaks operatives, including Assange, and Manning, a US Army private who faces court martial for unauthorized disclosure of thousands of US government documents.
During preliminary hearings, prosecutors in the Manning case alluded to evidence purporting to link Manning to Assange. Legal experts said this showed prosecutors were trying to build a conspiracy case against Assange.
Based on emails hacked from a Texas consulting firm, Assange claimed that US authorities issued a secret indictment against him which could result in him being imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or executed.
But authoritative US and European sources disputed this claim, saying no US charges have been filed.
Some US officials have long opposed charging Assange.
One argument is that he is afforded as much protection by the US Constitution's guarantee of press freedom as any mainstream journalist. Another is that filing charges would play into the hands of Assange and his followers, who have been trying to portray him as a free speech and anti-American martyr.
WikiLeaks has been crippled for nearly two years as a result of disputes between Assange and some of his collaborators. It has published no new official US secrets since early 2011.
Instead, it has tried to stay in the public spotlight by re-publishing materials acquired by other groups, such as the computer hacking network AnonymoUS
In light of WikiLeaks' waning influence and Assange's behavior, some US and European officials believe that US charges would backfire by rescuing them from irrelevance.
British officials learned that making even vague threats against Assange can energize him and his followers.
During negotiations with Ecuador after Assange took refuge in its embassy, UK authorities privately pointed out to Ecuadorean officials that an obscure British law gave them authority, in extreme circumstances, to strip a foreign embassy of its diplomatic status and enter the premises.
While British officials intended for the diplomatic exchange to remain private and sources said it was not meant as a threat, Ecuador made it public and accused Britain of planning to storm its embassy.
British authorities have said they are determined to carry out the court order to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he faces questioning in a criminal investigation which includes a rape allegation. Assange has denied the charges and suggested they are part of a US plot.
Cecilia Riddseleus, a senior official of Sweden's Justice Ministry, said Sweden had received no extradition request from US authorities, though she added, "it could come at any point" if US authorities decided to go ahead.
If Sweden took custody of Assange from Britain and then received a US extradition request, Stockholm would have to go back to Britain to seek its permission before acting, she said.
Swedish law, she said, forbids extradition in cases where the accused might face execution or where the alleged crimes could be deemed "political."
- Sydney Morning Herald