Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck has joined Julian Assange's legal team.
Tuck, who is head of LawAid International Chambers and a human rights lawyer, announced his involvement yesterday. Tuck's previous high-profile clients include Bali drug accused Antony Glen de Malmanche, Red Fox Tavern accused Mark Joseph Hoggart and AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd.
Tuck told the Bay of Plenty Times he had been involved in the legal team for the last year and had spent time with Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for meetings prior to Christmas 2018.
"I am very fortunate to be engaged in this matter."
He described Assange as a "decent Australian" and a "very resilient" person who had lived in fear for the past decade.
"He has lived with the fear of being whisked away by a black ops team," he said.
He said the truthfulness of the information that Assange had released was not in dispute, and those in power did not like him speaking out.
While the case might seem far removed from the life of everyday New Zealand citizens, he said it had ramifications for everyone.
He said the case illustrated possible threats on the freedom of journalists to report information to citizens - this included at the grassroots level, such as local council news on rates and taxes.
"This is the sort of case that has global and historical significance."
He said Assange was grateful for the support he had received from around the world, including New Zealand.
A trip to Mount Maunganui was also on Assange's to-do list if he was able, Tuck said.
Tuck would be located in San Francisco and New York City this year while working in the team.
WikiLeaks founder Assange has been accused of violating the Espionage Act by the United States government, which alleged he unlawfully obtained and disclosed national defence information.
The Justice Department's 18-count superseding indictment alleges that Assange directed former army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history.
It says the WikiLeaks founder, currently in custody in London, damaged national security by publishing documents that harmed the US and its allies and aided its adversaries.
Assange was arrested and escorted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, ending his seven-year political asylum stay to avoid extradition to Sweden over an alleged rape case.
He was consequently sentenced to 50 weeks in prison.