On Thursday, the Central American country of Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum in its London embassy. The hacktivist leader dashed away from Swedish and British authorities in an effort to shield himself from the ongoing two-year trial of sex charges brought up against Assange by two Swedish girls. In Ecuador’s embassy, Assange cannot be touched by British authorities, who are eagerly awaiting for him to step outside so they can detain him and bring him back into custody.
The deal to bring Assange under Ecuador’s protection apparently came on his Russian television show (we reported on this a few months back; read here), in which President Rafael Correa came on for an interview and slipped the “Hey, if you need a place to stay, you’re more than welcome with us” invite to Assange. Now, Correa, a friend of Hugo Chavez, Iran, Cuba and some other bad guys in the U.S.’s eyes, is warning the British government to back off of Assange if they knew what’s good for them.
Well, this morning, Assange finally came out in public to speak about his trials and tribulations with the world at large. On the embassy’s balcony, he greeted supporters, protestors and cops and offered a few choice words, mostly directed towards the Obama administration.
In his first public appearance in two months, the WikiLeaks founder once again made the accusation that the U.S. government was looking to connect the Swedish case and the British extradition with Assange’s ties to PFC Bradley Manning, the Army specialist charged and presently detained for stealing the Pentagon’s ‘confidential’ cables. By doing so, Obama’s Justice Department could put the Australian 41-year-old on trial here and, as of now, a Virginia grand jury is collecting evidence to do just that.
Here’s a bit of what Assange had to say:
“I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve the FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters.”
In his written statement, he also made reference to Pussy Riot – the band in Moscow just sentenced to prison for hooliganism and anti-Putin protests – as well as the plight of Manning. He did not mention, however, the case pending for him in Sweden involving the rape charges thrown against him.
With WikiLeaks struggling to financially survive due to financial clampdowns by major credit card companies, Assange is now alone in the embassy, unable to directly help the organization he created himself. But, with all these international spotlights on him, his time in hiding is sure to spur some sort of activity. Especially with the British cops just hanging out a few feet away.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 19, 2012