Spanish media is reporting that a court order issued by Spanish High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz indicates that content of communications between Julian Assange and his lawyers may have been illegally recorded during the time he spent at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The order that the newspaper El Pais has seen names Spain’s Under Cover (UC) Global security company as handing over the information to CIA agents. That would have revealed the defense strategy of Assange, a whistleblower and journalist whom the US wants extradited from the UK on espionage charges, a request that has been granted and will be decided on within the next two months by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
If put on trial and found guilty in the US, Assange could be sentenced to 175 years in prison for revealing damning US military operations during the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and publishing it on the WikiLeaks website.
The Spanish court order is procedural in nature, sent by Jusge Pedraz to the UK as an explanation as to why the country’s authorities should allow him to take testimonies from Assange’s doctors and UK lawyers – one of whom is well known solicitor and human rights activist Gareth Peirce – who were the subject of spying at the embassy.
Legal sources have told El Pais that the extradition request could fall through for violating the right of defense if there is proof that US intelligence agencies managed to learn about Assange’s defense by illegally spying on his legal representatives and doctors. Spain gaining access to these individuals for the sake of obtaining witness testimonies would leave the British justice system “in an embarrassing situation,” some believe.
Over two years ago, Pedraz sent a request to question Assange in a video conference and used a European Investigation Order (EIO) as a tool to obtain cooperation from UK authorities – Assange was treated as a witness in a case brought against Undercover Global. However, the British side delayed this by asking for more information, while not responding for months to documents that had already been provided to this end.
The Spanish newspaper interprets this as the British Justice blocking the investigation. Meanwhile, the lawyers that have been spied upon continue to defend Assange in the extradition case.