Sunday, August 19, 2012

Julian Assange Takes Refuge in Ecuadorian Embassy

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden to face criminal charges, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.  Ecuador's decision to grant Assange asylum has been met with a howl of protests from Western governments.  Britain has even threatened to break diplomatic relations with Ecuador, so that it can storm the embassy and arrest Assange.  So far Ecuador has stood strong against this outrageous imperialist threat.

Below is a truncated article about the situation that first appeared in the Green Left Weekly paper of Australia.  And below it, we are reproducing a recent statement by Julian Assange.  ~Northern Worker 


The diplomatic stand-off between Ecuador and Britain is continuing. Just hours before granting Assange asylum, Ecuador said Britain had threatened, in writing, to revoke the diplomatic standing of Ecuador's embassy and send in police to arrest Assange.

Dozens of police had gathered outside the embassy in the early morning of August 16 — raising fears of an assault on the building to capture Assange.

Despite being granted asylum, Assange remained holed up in the embassy. Britain insisted that if Assange set foot outside the embassy, he would be arrested. Britain claimed it was obliged to do this due to the court order upholding Assange's extradition to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual assault.

However, it is now clear for anyone with eyes to see that the targeting of Assange is about much bigger issues than the fact Sweden wishes to extradite him for questioning.

No nation has ever threaten an unprecedented violation of international law and diplomatic norms, with a move that would amount to a virtual declaration of war, so one man can face allegations for which he has not even been charged.

This is especially the case when Ecuador — and Assange — have repeatedly said Swedish authorities can question Assange in London. This makes a lie of the claims by many media commentators that Assange is seeking to avoid these allegations.

Rather, Assange sought — and was granted — asylum on the basis of documented threats from US authorities to prosecute him over secret US cables WikiLeaks has published.

These leaks were not just embarrassing to the US. They detailed serious crimes — such as the infamous “Collateral Murder” video WikiLeaks released in 2010 showing US soldiers in Iraq gunning down civilians, including Reuters journalists.

Assange and his supporters fear he will be sent from Sweden to the US. In February, WikiLeaks published leaked emails from private intelligence company Stratfor that revealed a grand jury had drawn up secret charges against Assange.

The alleged leaker of the material to WikiLeaks, US soldier Bradley Manning, is facing a court martial and potential death penalty over the leaks.

Abandoned by his own government, Assange has now been offered protection from a government that has shown itself on several occasions to be willing to stand up to the powerful in the interests of the powerless.

His government oversaw the drawing up of a new progressive constitution that was adopted by popular vote in 2008. As well as guaranteeing the right of the poor to basic services such as health care and education, it also limits the ability of corporate interests to control the media.

His government has increased taxes on big corporations and raised social spending to the benefit of the nation’s poor majority.

Strongly opposed by Ecuador's oligarchy, which controls much of the media, economy and state structures, Correa enjoys widespread popular support, with recent polls giving him an approval rating of more than 70%.

An attempted coup against Correa in 2010 was defeated, with supporters mobilising on the streets in his defence.

Correa's government is part of the left-wing bloc of nations organised into the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA), an eight-nation group that also includes Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. It promotes regional integration to liberate Latin America from US domination.

Among other moves to strengthen Ecuadorean sovereignty, the Correa government has shut down a US military base inside Ecuador. Correa famously told US authorities they could keep their airbase "if Ecuador were allowed to have one of its own in Florida".

I am here because I cannot be closer to you.
Thank you for being here.
Thank you for your resolve and your generosity of spirit.
On Wednesday night after a threat was sent to this embassy and the police descended on the building, you came out in the middle of the night to watch over it and you brought the world’s eyes with you.
Inside the embassy, after dark, I could hear teams of police swarming into the building through the internal fire escape.
But I knew that there would be witnesses.
And that is because of you.
If the UK did not throw away the Vienna Conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching.
And the world was watching because you were watching.
The next time somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend the rights we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark outside the Embassy of Ecuador, and how, in the morning, the sun came up on a different world, and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice.
And so, to those brave people:
I thank President Correa for the courage he has shown in considering and granting me political asylum.
And so I thank the government and the Foreign Minister, Ricardo PatiƱo, who have upheld the Ecuadorian constitution and its notion of universal rights in their consideration of my case.
And to the Ecuadorian people for supporting and defending their constitution.
And I have a debt of gratitude to the staff of this embassy whose families live in London and who have shown me hospitality and kindness despite the threats that they have received.
This Friday there will be an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of Latin America in Washington D.C. to address this situation.
And so I am grateful to the people and governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela and to all other Latin American countries who have come to the defence of the right to asylum.
To the people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia who have supported me in strength while their governments have not. And to those wiser heads in government who are still fighting for justice. Your day will come.
To the staff, supporters and sources of WikiLeaks whose courage, commitment and loyalty have seen no equal.
To my family and to my children who have been denied their father: forgive me. We will be reunited soon.
As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies.
We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.
Will it return to and reaffirm the values it was founded on?
Or will it lurch off the precipice dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?
I say that it must turn back.
I ask President Obama to do the right thing.
The United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks.
The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation.
The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters.
The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.
There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organization, be it WikiLeaks or the New York Times.
The US administration’s war on whistle-blowers must end.
Thomas Drake, William Binney, John Kirakou and the other heroic US whistle-blowers must - they must - be pardoned and compensated for the hardships they have endured as servants of the public record.
And the Army Private who remains in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth Kansas, who was found by the UN to have endured months of torturous detention in Quantico Virginia and who has yet - after two years in prison - to see a trial, must be released.
And if Bradley Manning really did as he is accused, he is a hero, an example to us all and one of the world’s foremost political prisoners.
Bradley Manning must be released.
On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day in detention without trial. The legal maximum is 120 days.
On Thursday, my friend, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to 3 years for a tweet.
On Friday, a Russian band was sentenced to 2 years in jail for a political performance.
There is unity in the oppression.
There must be absolute unity and determination in the response.

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