Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 when he had access to the outside world. Photo: Snapperjack/Wikipedia
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is likely to be evicted from the small room in the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been holed up since 2012 without access to sunlight or fresh air, even as the British police wait to arrest him as soon as he steps out. The arrest warrant against him has been issued ostensibly for breaching the bail terms of a sexual assault case in Sweden that has long been dropped.
Speaking in Spain after a three-day visit to the UK, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, who had previously referred to Assange as a “stone in our shoe”, confirmed that his government had been in talks with the British government to end his stay in the embassy.
While a UK government spokesperson reportedly said that the matter was not discussed with Morneo during his recent visit London, where the president was attending the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit, Pulitzer winner Glenn Greenwald wrote that the real purpose of his trip was “to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange.. eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London; and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities.”
Also Read: Ecuador Bows Before US interests, Continues Suppression of Julian Assange’s Internet Rights
He also suggested Moreno’s trip to Spain, where authorities are still furious over Assange’s denunciations of the police crackdown on Catalan protesters, is of relevance. It was after pressure from Spain that Ecuador suspended Assange’s internet access – his only link to the outside world in what is virtually solitary confinement in which his physical and mental health is rapidly deteriorating.
Speaking in Madrid, Moreno, expressing his disapproval of Assange, said, “I have never been in favor of Mr. Assange’s activity .. I have never agreed with the interventions in people’s private emails in order to obtain information, however valuable it may be, to bring out certain undesirable acts of governments or people, not in that way.. There are correct and legal ways to do it.”
Saying “all we want is the guarantee that his life will not be in danger”, Moreno indicated that his government was ready hand Assange over so long as he is not given capital punishment once extradited to the US.
On July 21, RT had reported that Ecuador was ready to hand over Assange to the UK authorities in “coming weeks or even days”, citing unnamed sources. The diplomatic effort to secure his capture from Ecuador – which, according to “sources close to Assange”, is being arm-twisted by the US which has threatened to block a loan to the country from the International Monetary Fund – is being headed by the UK’s Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.
The asylum to Assange was granted under the administration of the previous Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa – a prominent left leader in the continent who had pursued his state’s foreign policy in defiance of the US and pursued pro-people policies on the domestic front. In May, Correa told the Intercept that given Moreno’s subservient behaviour towards the US, he wouldn’t be surprised if the current president handed over Assange.
While Correa had ordered a US military base in Ecuador to be shut unless the US was willing to reciprocate by allowing Ecuador to establish a base in Miami, Moreno, who had positioned himself as Correa’s follower during the elections, betrayed the popular mandate after assuming power by implementing a slew of measures to align Ecuadorian policies in line with US interests in the region.
In May, Moreno’s government signed a security agreement, which, according to a report by the Public News Agency of Ecuador and South America, “implies sharing information, intelligence topics and experiences in the fight against illegal drug trafficking and fighting transnational organized crime.” Referring to this agreement, Correa said, “Everyone in Latin America knows that this agreement with the U.S. means control, intervention, spying”, accusing the president of taking Ecuador back to the time when it was submissive to US.
Now, it appears Moreno is ready to hand over Assange to UK authorities – who have issued an arrest warrant for the offense which carries a penalty of three months imprisonment plus fine – without securing any assurance that he will not be extradited to the US, where he will stand trial for publishing classified state documents which revealed the atrocities committed by the US against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Also Read: Ecuador-US Security Deal: Is President Lenín Moreno Opening Door for US military presence?
The British have refused to confirm whether or not the US has filed a formal request for Assange’s extradition. However, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions had said last year that Assange’s arrest was a “priority”. Assange claims that a sealed indictment has already been prepared by the US – a claim the latter has repeatedly refuse to confirm or deny.
US intelligence services have also concluded that Wikileaks had assisted Russian intelligence in its alleged bid to interfere in the 2016 US elections by hacking the Democratic National Committee servers. The American intention to frame Wikileaks was made clear in a speech US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered last year to the CIA, in which, without providing a shred of evidence, he said:
“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service. It has encouraged its followers to find jobs at CIA in order to obtain intelligence. It directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information.. It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. In January of this year, our Intelligence Community determined that Russian military intelligence—the GRU—had used WikiLeaks to release data of US victims that the GRU had obtained through cyber operations against the Democratic National Committee. And the report also found that Russia’s primary propaganda outlet, RT, has actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.”
Mentioning Assange’s name 15 times in his speech, Pompeo accused Assange – “the darling of terrorists” – of having made “common cause with dictators” and threatening “democracies around the world”.
Assange’s legal team is working to prepare his defense at multiple levels. “It’s an untenable situation.. If they do remove his protection, we will go to the courts to protect him.. We are preparing to defend him in the British courts and will fight extradition to the US. We don’t have any indication of timeframe. This is a very serious situation, one that we are very concerned about. It’s a matter for Ecuador, the UK, the US and Australia,” Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson has said.