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WikiLeaks’ Assange appears in court in Spanish spying investigation

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MADRID – Arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange He appeared in a Madrid court via videolink from the United Kingdom on Friday as part of an investigation into his allegations that a Spanish company spied on him while he lived at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The case, led by Spanish judge Jose de la Mata, focuses on allegations that the first cameras and microphones were installed at the embassy between June 2017 and early 2018 by Spanish private security firm Undercover Global S.L.

THE Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.

The tapes, which they say captured conversations between Assange and his attorneys, may have been distributed to third parties, including “Ecuadorian authorities and US agents,” according to court documents, which claim that this was done “probably by order of the American intelligence. ”

A CIA spokeswoman declined to comment.

“Finally, Assange could testify as a victim of this alleged espionage plot that would have been orchestrated from the United States,” said Aitor Martinez, Assange’s lawyer, who testified in the case.

During his testimony, Assange, 48, said he was unaware that the cameras installed by Undercover Global were also capturing audio and suggested that surveillance would likely target members of his legal team, according to a spokesman for his lawyer.

UC Global S.L. owner and director David Morales declined to say if his company spied on Assange. “All information is confidential and belongs to the Ecuadorian government,” Morales told El Pais in July. “We just did a job.”

Judge De la Mata initially arrested Morales in September and released him on bail.

Speaking outside the court in Westminster, former Ecuadorian London consul Fidel Navraez accused Undercover Global of betraying Ecuador and Assange.

“This company was hired by Ecuador to protect the embassy, ​​protect Julian Assange, protect embassy staff … but it’s a corrupt company – we know that now,” he said.

Assange’s legal team wants the company and its founder to be charged with crimes such as breach of privacy and attorney-client privilege, money laundering and bribery.

WikiLeaks founder spent almost seven years hiding in the embassy to prevent extradition to Sweden for allegations of rape that were dropped in November.

He was forcibly removed from there in April and arrested for 50 weeks for skipping bail in Britain before the US filed its extradition request. A full extradition hearing for Assange is scheduled for February.

Assange faces 18 charges in the United States, including plotting to break into government computers and violating an espionage law. If convicted, he could spend decades in prison.

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