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Intro: "WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is beyond the grasp of British authorities as long as he is holed up in Ecuador's London embassy, the government said Wednesday. But he faces arrest if he steps outside."

Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. (photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. (photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)



Assange Is Beyond Reach in Ecuador Embassy

By Jill Lawless, Associated Press

20 June 12

 

ulian Assange has dramatically sought political asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, days after the supreme court rejected the last of his appeals against extradition to Sweden to face sex crime accusations and after what he called a "declaration of abandonment" by his own government in Australia.

In a move that appears to have surprised even some of his closest supporters, the WikiLeaks founder walked into the country's embassy in Knightsbridge and asked for asylum, citing the UN declaration of human rights.

"I can confirm I arrived at the Ecuadorean embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum," Assange said in a statement.

"This application has been passed to the ministry of foreign affairs in the capital Quito. I am grateful to the Ecuadorean ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application."

The audacious bid came less than a week after the supreme court finally rejected his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with accusations of the rape of one woman and sexual assault on another in August 2010, which he denies.

Assange and his supporters have argued that his removal to Sweden could be followed by a possible onward extradition to the US on potential espionage charges, saying he is at risk of the death penalty.

The US government opened a grand jury investigation in May 2011 into the passing of hundreds of thousands of secret US embassy cables to WikiLeaks, the first stage in a process of deciding whether or not to prosecute Assange. No request for extradition to the US has been made, however.

In a statement on its site, WikiLeaks said that in a meeting with Assange's legal adviser in May, the Australian government had issued "an effective 'declaration of abandonment', refusing to protect Mr Assange, or make any requests on his behalf".

Assange had been given until 28 June to lodge an appeal against the UK court's decision at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg. Some legal commentators have doubted whether Assange would have strong grounds to take his appeal to the court in Strasbourg.

He may have decided on his dramatic switch in tactics having been discouraged about his chances of success in Europe's highest court. Assange is currently on £240,000 police bail, a sum posted by a number of high-profile friends and supporters. Last month Assange interviewed the socialist Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa for his TV show The World Tomorrow, broadcast on the Russian state-sponsored channel Russia Today. The WikiLeaks founder described Correa as "a leftwing populist who has changed the face of Ecuador".

It was unclear whether any explicit or informal offer of asylum had been made by the president during the interview, though the country's deputy foreign minister said in 2010 that Ecuador would offer him residency without conditions.

Assange's presence will focus attention on the extent of diplomatic immunity for foreign embassies in the UK. In a statement, the Ecuadorean embassy said: "This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorean embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorean government. We have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito. While the department assesses Mr Assange's application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorean government."

"The decision to consider Mr Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden."

"As Mr Assange is in the Ecuadorean embassy he is on diplomatic territory and beyond the reach of the police," the Foreign Office said. "We will seek to work with the Ecuadorean authorities to resolve this situation as soon as possible."

Ecuador's justice system and record on free speech have been called into question by a number of campaigning organisations including Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Amnesty International.

"I think this is ironic that you have a journalist, or an activist, seeking political asylum from a government that has – after Cuba – the poorest record of free speech in the region, and the practice of persecuting local journalists when the government is upset by their opinions or their research," said José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch's Americas division.

In April 2011, Ecuador expelled the US ambassador Heather Hodges following the publication of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks alleging widespread corruption within the Ecuadorean police. The WikiLeaks founder has been in custody and on bail in the UK since autumn 2010. The activist Jemima Khan confirmed on Twitter that she had put up bail for Assange, saying: "I had expected him to face the allegations. I am as surprised as anyone by this."

The Australian journalist Phillip Knightley, said he had also offered £20,000 in surety for Assange, but he had no regrets about putting his money at stake. "I'm not worried about my commitment. I would do it again. He's an Australian and he deserves my compatriot's support. He's been treated terribly by the British and Swedish justice systems and I think he's the victim of a conspiracy." Assange, he said, had sought asylum only "after exhausting every other possible remedy".

Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline Club in whose Norfolk mansion Assange spent much of his period on bail, said: "I certainly didn't expect this to happen." "One deduces from it that he doesn't feel he's going to get justice by going to Sweden. I feel sure that Julian will have gone to the embassy feeling that he wasn't going to get justice otherwise. I do feel he's been painted unfavourably."

Assange has not been charged with any crime in Sweden, and vehemently denies any wrongdoing in relation to the two women. Joakim Nergelius, a professor of jurisprudence and law at Örebro University, told the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter that since the basis of Sweden's extradition request is the European arrest warrant, it was "quite impossible to assess the possible legal implications" should he be granted asylum.

The Ministry of Justice said that responsibility for handling his extradition rested with the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) which deals with European arrest warrant requests. Neither Soca, the Metropolitan police, whose extradition unit arrested Assange in December 2010, nor the Crown Prosecution Service would comment.


See Also:

'Friends of WikiLeaks' Fight for Assange's Rights in European Court

Assange Seeking Asylum in Ecuadorean Embassy

 

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+22 # ronnewmexico 2012-06-20 08:04
This appears the only rational alternative for Assange. A secret incitement is supposedly being prepared or has been prepared against Assange in the US judiciary.

Jailed in Sweden and he would be summarily, when Sweden is done with him, be sent to the US for prosecution of those charges.

As per Bradley Manning, he would be tortured by various means and in all likelihood never again see the light of day. Prospective charges would probably have him facing the potential of the death penalty.

Says a bit on what side Barack Obama et all are on....
Quite a bit actually, this is not proceeding except by action at the highest level. No action and then congress may have stepped in. But that has not happened. No need.
 
 
+27 # paulrevere 2012-06-20 08:23
BRAVO Julian Assange ( only if you are not, as some assert, a CIA funded event)

BRAVO President Rafael Correa Delgado for bravely granting the asylum

BOOOOOOOOOO to all in the US gov't and outside it who are so anti-freedom and democracy, paranoid of information in public hands, anti whistleblower etc.
 
 
0 # itchyvet 2012-06-21 01:00
Quoting paulrevere:
BRAVO Julian Assange ( only if you are not, as some assert, a CIA funded event)

BRAVO President Rafael Correa Delgado for bravely granting the asylum

BOOOOOOOOOO to all in the US gov't and outside it who are so anti-freedom and democracy, paranoid of information in public hands, anti whistleblower etc.

Um, paulrevere, from my reading of the article, asylum has NOT YET been granted.
Methinks your putting the cart before horse mate.
 
 
0 # AMLLLLL 2012-06-22 11:06
Since Ecuador is on the dollar, I can only hope Delgado is not squeezed to 'aquiesce' to the wishes of the US.
 
 
+25 # Archie1954 2012-06-20 08:33
Good for Assange! Hopefully he has defeated the egregious conspiracy of Hillary, the evil witch from Washington and the equally evil, dysfunctional Swedish judicial system. Don't think for one second that her stop over in Sweden was just a social visit, it wasn't. She was there to demand Assange be sent to the US once Sweden got their lying, perverse hands on him. Now perhaps they will both be thwarted in their disgusting designs. As for Australia, I hope the good people of that country send their current syncophantic prime minister packing soon. She is nothing but an American stooge.
 
 
+27 # DaveM 2012-06-20 08:49
Give him a diplomatic passport or put him in a big diplomatic pouch and "ship" him somewhere safe.

Some will criticize this action by the Ecuadorian embassy. They may benefit from a lesson from history. During the era of the Soviet Union, the U.S. embassy in Moscow provided asylum to at least one family who were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. They remained at the embassy for some years since they were unable to leave safely.

Julian Assange, as noted above, has not been charged with a crime (he is "wanted for questioning"--n ot typically an extraditable matter). The legal system is being used to harass him for his work with Wikileaks. One can hardly complain if he takes advantage of the law to protect himself.
 
 
+19 # Phlippinout 2012-06-20 10:46
They will criticize the Ecuadorian embassy no matter what they do because they are leftist and the US and its cronies never are reasonable with other governments unless they control them. Good luck Julian, we are praying for you and know you will be tortured if the uS has its way. My tax money helps fund the ridiculous time wasted on punishing people who did the right thing. No wonder we are all so ass backwards.
 
 
+13 # bluepilgrim 2012-06-20 09:29
Perhaps there were some feelers or communication with Ecuador or Correa first that indicates acceptance of Assange, maybe with some support from other South American nations, or even China or Iran, but I wonder how well they could withstand attacks by the US, which I would guess would be coming.

I'm a bit surprised that any country without great strength would buck the US (and England), but this may be an indication that the empire is losing clout in the world.
 
 
+8 # paulrevere 2012-06-20 10:21
"Perhaps"? Have you ever been involved with government at the embassy level? A more officious group you will never find.

I am certain the President of Ecuador has been being consulted all along...this did not happen overnight...a lot went into the final decision to put the asylum plan into effect.
 
 
+17 # Doll 2012-06-20 11:44
Quoting bluepilgrim:
Perhaps there were some feelers or communication with Ecuador or Correa first that indicates acceptance of Assange, maybe with some support from other South American nations, or even China or Iran, but I wonder how well they could withstand attacks by the US, which I would guess would be coming.

I'm a bit surprised that any country without great strength would buck the US (and England), but this may be an indication that the empire is losing clout in the world.



Wasn't Ecuador the county that refused to renew a lease on a US military base in Ecuador unless the US agreed to an Ecuadorian military base in Miami?

Sound rather gutsy to me.
 
 
+3 # paulrevere 2012-06-20 14:12
Yes...
 
 
+18 # Lisa Moskow 2012-06-20 09:50
Yes DaveM--I second your comments.

The whole case is a case of political persecution. A "he-said-she-sa id" between adults consenting to go to bed with each other would be thrown out of any court in a minute.

The Obama administration needs to let go of this case as it will cost them dearly.
It is evidence of their hypocrisy.
 
 
0 # AMLLLLL 2012-06-23 00:48
Lisa, Assange had already gone in for questioning in Sweden having to do with the young women, and he was never charged. Enter Karl Rove who went back to Sweden to make sure the smear campaign got off to a good start.
 
 
+15 # ronnewmexico 2012-06-20 10:09
Ecuador was one of those affected by the release of the Wiki documents. Apparently consistent with this, the US embassy had whole contingents of local police forces on their payroll.

That is how the US operates most commonly in this area...covertly not overtly.
So for now at least covert operations are seemingly slightly eroded.

Brazil Venezuela and others are just getting to be to big a block of progressive nations to take on for the US.
STill trying I am certain but weakened in their ability to act covertly by released such as the Wiki documents.

Why Ecuador was chosen as opposed to Venezuela or some other place (Asanges TV show was apparently shown in russia curiouusly) speaks of perhaps issues of power and control beyond the obvious. And was it assanges choice really or a choice collectively made by these nation states locked in a battle of sorts with the US.
Assange has shaken the pillars of power but they remain firmly entrenched, and more is written in this than meets the eye is my guess.
 
 
+8 # Michael_K 2012-06-20 13:42
Assange's TV show was shown in Russia - not so curiously - because it's on a Kremlin-funded channel "Russia Today".

It's the world upside down when whistle-blowing journalists have to go to Russia to get backing, and when Al Jazeera is the only "straight" source of mainstream information in the US.
 
 
+1 # itchyvet 2012-06-21 01:03
Quoting Michael_K:
Assange's TV show was shown in Russia - not so curiously - because it's on a Kremlin-funded channel "Russia Today".

It's the world upside down when whistle-blowing journalists have to go to Russia to get backing, and when Al Jazeera is the only "straight" source of mainstream information in the US.

Um Michael, Al Jazerra "USED" to be "straight" until the U.S. bought into it, now it's just as questionable as other World media.
 
 
0 # Michael_K 2012-06-21 09:38
It's still "straighter" than almost any US source of equivalent distribution.
 
 
+4 # itchyvet 2012-06-21 01:04
For my money, I would've sought asylum in Iceland, where they claim to be free of any such persecution, and actualy have the cojones to stand up to the N.W.O.
 
 
+4 # Stephanie Remington 2012-06-20 13:54
Take a look at this article from Glenn Greenwald. http://www.salon.com/2012/06/19/assange_asks_ecuador_for_asylum/singleton/
 

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