Julian Assange granted political asylum by Ecuador

It appears that Ecuador has granted political asylum to Julian Assange. The British government will likely try and keep him holed up in the embassy and prevent him from going to the airport and leaving the country.

Barack Obama, who promised ‘the most transparent administration’ when he was campaigning for the presidency, hates people who shine any negative light on his own administration’s activities. The only leaks it likes and encourages are ones that make it look good. The US government’s hatred of Wikileaks and its founder is well known and its treatment of Bradley Manning has been horrendous.

You can expect the US to try and punish Ecuador in some way for daring to defy it. Retaliation by the US is especially likely considering that Ecuador in 2009 closed the US military base in that country, though the president Rafael Correa, not showing the proper obsequiousness to his masters, said that he would be willing to reconsider if the US lets Ecuador set up a military base in Miami. After all, he said, “If there’s no problem having foreign soldiers on a country’s soil, surely they’ll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States.”


  1. Alasdair says

    After everything that’s been written recently about misogyny in the sceptic community, it’s rather disappointing to see FTB publishing an article in defence of an accused rapist.

    Yes, I agree that Wikileaks has done an impressive service to the world, and the US’s treatment of Private Manning has been appalling. But Julian Assange is no saint himself, and accused of serious crimes. He should have the guts to go to Sweden and stand trial for them. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  2. says

    This is a very important point. I support Wikileaks fully, but that doesn’t mean I condone Julian Assange’s behavior. He needs to find capable hands to leave in charge, man up, and face the charges, not just float around and act like the little punk with one good idea that he is.

  3. says

    The issue being that the accusations disappeared due to a lack of evidence, and then reappeared when the US wanted him. Any criminal charges that only appear in pro extradition countries when the US decides they want someone are a bit fuzzy.

  4. says

    And each FTB is not an separate entity unto itself with a unified message. It isn’t like CNN posting something with an editorial review, each blogger can post anything they want.

  5. Mano Singham says

    I had not heard this. Has Manning publicly and unequivocally made a statement to this effect?

  6. Mano Singham says

    Yes, he should face the charges in Sweden. If they and the UK gave assurances that they would not extradite him to the US, then there would be no reason to not go back there. If the rape charges were all Sweden was interested in, they could give such a public assurance. But they have not done so, fueling suspicions that they plan to send him to US where you can be sure that his treatment will be far worse than even Manning.

    The US government has the practice of meting out harsh treatment as a means of sending a warning to others to not defy them. They do that with governments, not only individuals. They hate Wikileaks and the entire movement towards transparency and exposing government wrongdoing and seek to crush it.

  7. Paul says

    Firstly, the president of Ecuador has denied that this is true, stating the decision hasn’t been made yet.

    Secondly, if Assange were truly only afraid of extradition to the US rather than just facing the rape charges he would be sensible to accept the extradition to Sweden and then drag out the trial. Under European law he would effectively be in custody of both the UK and Sweden, so if a third nation wanted to extradite him they would need to get permission from both nations. Even if Sweden were easier to extradite from than the UK (and given the UK’s treaties tend to make life easier than European norm I find this hard to believe) there would be no forfeit of the UK protections anyway. There is no case where avoiding extradition to Sweden reduces his chances of being taken to the USA.

    Further to this, both the UK and Sweden, as signatories to the ECHR, legally can’t extradite anyone without a promise that capital punishment won’t be sought. Same goes for, “torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” A case showing that he would be subject to such treatment on extradition is a genuine defence against extradition.

    There is a detailed look at both relevant extradition and asylum law here.

    Add to this the lack of a realistic extradition threat from the US and this whole affair looks like a cynical attempt to avoid facing the rape charges or at least keep as much support as possible by playing anti-American sentiment and paranoia.

  8. says

    The “face the charges in Sweden” trope is bogus. First off, I don’t believe he actually has been charged – which makes it highly unusual that they’re trying to extradite him. Unless it’s so that they can turn him loose by putting him on a plane to the US. It appears to me that the justice system of Sweden and the UK are being bent over backwards in order to please the US; whether or not Assange did what he’s accused of, it seems reasonable to me to resist judicial maneuverings of this type.

    But here’s why the “charges in Sweden” is a non-issue: they could actually charge him in absentia. And, they could try him in absentia. They might find him guilty, they might not (certainly it would look pretty bad if he didn’t appear). Then, if the case was heard and they had a guilty conviction their attempts to extradite him are justified and there would probably be public support for his incarceration once the facts of the event were aired and questioned in court.

    In fact, people are convicted in absentia all the time; it’s one of the ways that normally you get an extradition! Why aren’t the Swedish doing that?

  9. says

    I don’t think that Assange is just doing all this as a cynical maneuver to avoid charges in Sweden. Because, given what he’s been accused of he’d have probably been released by now. I absolutely do not condone sexual assault in any circumstances, and I think that he should be tried and the facts of the case should be aired and examined. I’m not trying to minimize sexual assault, by any means, however, it doesn’t sound like the kind of crime that – even if he were found guilty – he’d face more time in prison for than the headaches he is currently dealing with. That makes me figure either that he’s a poor strategist (but he appears to me to be a rather clever sociopath, and not a poor strategist at all) or that he’s genuinely worried that he’ll wind up with a one-way ticket to a kangaroo court.

    Another possibility is that he’s plausibly sure that the US Gov’t will produce evidence that he was, in fact, personally involved with Bradley Manning’s leaking secrets. I.e.: he may be dragging his feet hoping that the US Gov’t will have to put its cards on the table to get Manning and he can figure out how that game will go down. Given the presence at the Manning trial of (apparently) some of the same legal team that are building the case against Assange, that seems reasonable.

    I don’t understand why the US Government hasn’t just played its cards and charged Assange then asked the UK to extradite him. Why aren’t they just playing this straight up? It seems like it ought to be easy.

  10. Alasdair says

    “he’s genuinely worried that he’ll wind up with a one-way ticket to a kangaroo court.”

    I suspect he does believe this, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually a reasonable belief. As you suggest, the US could have extradited him by now if they wanted to; if they had plans to do so, wouldn’t they have done it already?

  11. says

    if they had plans to do so, wouldn’t they have done it already?

    Yeah, really! The behavior on both sides of this situation puzzles me greatly. I hate to sound like a conspiracy nut but it makes me think that there’s something else going on that neither side has talked about, yet.

    If the US just charged him and tried him in absentia then they’d be able to avoid the whole problem of giving him all the publicity. They could just heap on the demonization and convict him and then extradite him. What’s so hard about that?

    I have suspicions that the USG feels it needs to break Manning because the other evidence they have against Assange is Adrian Lamo who is a liability as a witness. The USG needs desperately to connect the dots and I really don’t think they have a case, yet. They’re just trying to make things as unpleasant as possible for him, because he made things unpleasant for them. Bureaucrat payback.

  12. left0ver1under says

    The situation in Sweden is unusual. Two prosecutors have looked at the case. The first one declared that there was no basis for a rape charge and closed the file. Assange was free to leave the country, and not face any charges.

    It was only after he left that a second prosecutor reopened the file, which is reported to be very unusual. (For Canadians reading this, imagine a case being reopened after a judge has ordered a stay of proceedings. It’s very rare.) I’ve heard allegations that the second prosecutor a member of Sweden’s right wing party, though nothing confirmed. Assange did not “flee” Sweden, he was a free man with no charges pending against him.

    Sweden’s rape laws require a much lower burden of proof or accusation for a rape charge to be made. It’s similar to England’s ridiculous libel laws which make suing people very easy. Just as the overly emotional try to have cases of libel heard in England, the desire to have Assange deported and tried in Sweden is likely being done for the same reason: it’s much easier to convict him there than if the alleged rape had taken place elsewhere.

    Even if the US doesn’t try to rendition and torture Assange, imprisoning him will silence him, and that’s the US and UK’s main goal. The two governments hate free speech, they hate the exposure of their war crimes.

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