Assange
© REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in London, December 20, 2019.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange briefly stepped out of maximum security prison in the UK to testify via video-link in a Spanish case against a company that spied on him inside the Ecuadorian embassy, allegedly on the US' behalf.

Assange, who is being held at Belmarsh prison in southern London pending his hearing on extradition to the US, was driven over to the Westminster Magistrates' Court on Friday, where a video-link was set up for him to speak with a judge in Madrid. The proceedings were closed to the press on the grounds of "national security."

The High Court in Madrid is hearing Assange's case against Undercover Global Ltd, a Spanish security company that allegedly bugged him during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Undercover Global was contracted to provide embassy security between 2015 and 2018, and in that capacity secretly recorded Assange's every move via hidden cameras, microphones and electronic surveillance, the lawsuit says.

Assange
© REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Protesters supporting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gather in London ahead of his testimony before the Spanish High Court via videolink, December 20, 2019.
Assange told the court "he was absolutely unaware that the cameras recorded audio, that hidden microphones had been introduced" into the fire extinguisher mounts inside the embassy, his attorney Aitor Martinez told reporters in Madrid after the testimony.

Assange was "an absolutely passive subject of an illegitimate interference that would have been eventually coordinated by the United States," Martinez added.

If the illegal surveillance targeted Assange's legal team and violated his attorney-client privilege, that has ramifications on the proceedings against him in both the UK and the US, his lawyers have argued.

David Morales, owner of Undercover Global, was briefly arrested in September and then released on bail. In June, he told the Spanish daily El Pais that his company "simply did a job" and that all the information it gathered is "confidential and it belongs to the government of Ecuador."


Assange sought asylum from Ecuador in 2012, facing an investigation of sexual assault in Sweden and fearing it was a pretext to have him extradited to the US. He ended up spending almost seven years trapped inside the Latin American country's embassy in London, because UK authorities denied him permission to leave. The new government in Quito withdrew his asylum in April, and he was dragged out of the building by UK police.

Within days of his arrest, the US would confirm Assange's suspicions by unsealing the indictment charging him with violating the Espionage Act, over publishing the Iraq and Afghanistan war documents in 2010. If extradited and convicted, he faces 175 years in prison. British authorities sentenced him to 50 weeks in prison for bail violation, and then kept him locked up at Belmarsh after he served that sentence, pending extradition hearings. Sweden formally dropped an investigation against Assange last month.