New Zealand Law Society - Tauranga-based lawyer part of Julian Assange's legal team

Tauranga-based lawyer part of Julian Assange's legal team

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Tauranga human rights lawyer Craig Tuck says he is part of the the legal team representing Julian Assange.

Mr Tuck is also a transnational criminal law and criminal justice specialist and he is the head of LawAid International Chambers.

He was with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy where they held meetings before Christmas 2018. He was arrested at this Embassy in April, having sought refuge there since 2012. He faces a raft of charges.

"Julian Assange is currently in custody, awaiting decisions on extradition brought by both the US and Swedish authorities. The new charges supersede the previous indictment and include allegations of violations of the Espionage Act (1917), along with conspiring to break into government computers (computer intrusion). These new charges carry the maximum penalty of death.

"This is a dramatic escalation against someone who is unchallenged on the truth and validity of his revelations about mass murder, torture and spying by government agencies," Mr Tuck says.

Assange is an Australian journalist who founded WikiLeaks.

Mr Tuck considers that the charges are dangerous for any journalists, including those in New Zealand, who uncover secrets of other nations. Everyone, not just journalists, should care about that - if they value transparency and democracy.

He says Julian Assange is the first journalist charged under the Espionage Act and is accused of participating in one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets. He is also facing moves to extradite him to Sweden on rape charges - which he has vehemently denied.

Mr Tuck considers that the extraordinarily harsh sentence of imprisonment for a first bail breach (when there was no substantive charge, for which bail was imposed) creates stress and uncertainty for a person who has demonstrably shown his commitment to democracy, freedom of speech and truth.

He says that a citizen like Julian Assange is a treasure to any modern democracy that values transparency and freedom.

"The action against Julian Assange hurts us all - eventually. The erosion of one person’s fundamental rights and freedoms erodes the rights of all free people," he says.

He says the plight of Julian Assange highlights an unprecedented attack on fair trial rights, freedom of expression, and access to information exposing massive human rights abuses, murder by armed forces of civilians and corruption.