Categories

Assange on the Run: Going Nowhere for Now

Assange now has help, but seemingly not enough.

He’s surrounded by hostile Brits and a government threatening to storm the Ecuadoran embassy where he’s holed up. Ecuador’s government has granted him political asylum and is calling the Brits’ bluff, pointedly reminding them they’re not a colony and haven’t been for quite a long time.

If he does manage to escape and get his feet safely planted on Ecuadoran soil, he has a good chance of being able to eventually return home to Australia, where he has a strong support base.

For now, the Brits are unlikely to follow through on their threatened raid; that would set a dangerous precident. Ernest A. Canning, writing as a guest on The Brad Blog, explained the danger the threat exposes:

“How ironic! Only last year, both the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council formally condemned an Iranian attack on the British embassy in Tehran, drawing a comparison to the widely condemned 1979 Iranian assault on the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis.

“Yet, now we see the British government threatening to engage in the very same lawless behavior in order to seize an individual who has never been formally charged with a crime. To the contrary, as [Guardian writer Mark] Weisbrot correctly notes, Sweden has sought extradition solely to question Assange–an extradition which former Stockholm prosecutor Sve-Erik Alhem described as ‘unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate’ because Assange has always been available to answer questions in the U.K.”

So Assange sits tight, a captive in the embassy. The Brits seem to have him locked down, but they don’t dare make a move to get him. Escaping through their net, however, would seem to be next to impossible. It’s a good old fashioned Ecuadoran stand-off.

Julian AssangeAs grim a picture as this may be, this is actually an improvement of circumstances for Assange. Although he has many supporters, especially among free speech proponents, until now he’s had no sovereign entity behind him. Yes, he’s still in a fix, but at least now he has the Ecuadorans watching his back.

The granting of asylum was a bold move on Ecuador’s part. The U.S. State Department might want to take note of the fact that Ecuador is an American nation not led by Castro, Chavez or any of the other leaders of the western hemisphere the U.S. likes to demonize for not buying the American plan.

Outside of Europe and Israel, there hasn’t been a groundswell of support for the U.S. position against Assange and WikiLeaks, least of all from Ecuador’s South American neighbors who understand from experience that the U.S.’s anger is primarily born out of embarrassment. Our intelligence spooks are embarrassed because Assange demonstrated how often sensitive security issues are discussed using email, which isn’t very secure even when encrypted. Secretary of State Clinton is embarrassed because she’s been caught speaking out of both sides of her mouth, which is something Latin American nations have learned to expect from U.S. officials.

If the embassy manages to spirit Assange to Ecuador, the Ecuadorans stand to gain much international prestige, especially in Latin America. Also, Assange will be stuck there until he can be assured he’ll be safe from prosecution back in Australia. It’s a certainty the Australian government isn’t going to grant him a free return until they’ve come up with a solution that will pacify the U.S.

While in Ecuador he’ll have to be well protected and kept in hiding, lest he be kidnapped or murdered, which is definitely a possibility. Remember, not only the U.S., but Israel and most governments in Europe want to see Assange permanently taken out of action. International law is only seen by this gang as an obstacle to be overcome. Mr. Assange will definitely be in danger during his stay in Equador.

As usual, the Europeans are relieved to be able to let the United States take the lead in this sordid affair. It lets them have the appearance of having clean hands–even when their culpability is clearly visible. Think about it, the Brits won’t extradite him directly to the U.S., that wouldn’t be cricket, but they will extradite him to be “questioned” in Sweden on an unrelated matter, knowing that as soon as he lands in Stockholm he’ll be turned over to the Yanks, probably right at the airport.

None of this has escaped the Ecuadorans, which they made clear when announcing their decision to grant asylum. Dylan Stableford, writing on the Yahoo blog The Lookout, reported on the announcement made by Ecuador’s foreign minister:

“‘We have decided to grant political asylum to him,’ Ricardo Patino said at the end of a long televised statement from the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, where he criticized the U.S. and U.K. governments for failing to protect Assange from political persecution.

“‘The countries that have a right to protect Assange have failed him,’ Patino said. ‘[Assange] is victim of political persecution. … If Assange is extradited to U.S., he will not receive a fair trial.'”

If he makes it back to Australia he might never be able to travel safely outside his home country again. In this way, he’ll be in much the same situation as Roman Polanski. But that’s a big if. Right now he’s surrounded by Brits determined not to let him give them the slip.

The following two tabs change content below.
Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

Latest posts by Christine Hall (see all)

6 comments to Assange on the Run: Going Nowhere for Now

  • warren

    What does this have to do with software?

  • john

    No – after various appeals, he’s being sent to Sweden to answer rape allegations under a Europe wide extradition agreement. However bad Sweden’s record on handing people over to the CIA used to be, as of now the US probably has a better chance of getting him extradited from Britain.

    What the article really seems to be implying is that maybe the UN should declare the USA a rogue state.

  • chavall

    The concept of free-code(s)is enough related to the one of freedom, human-rights free information and less hypocrisy, as to make this note appealing! Don’t you think so?

  • Tony P

    What a biased piece this is.

    Let’s look at it a piece at a time:
    1)”the Brits won’t extradite him directly to the U.S., that wouldn’t be cricke”.
    Wrong, Britain, being a civilized country, does not have the death penalty (got rid of it at the beginning of the 1960s) and so will not extradite to a country where the person may be executed (ie. the USA).
    2) “Outside of Europe and Israel, there hasn’t been a groundswell of support for the U.S. position against Assange and WikiLeak”
    Wrong, in the UK Wikileaks and Assange have a fair bit of support.
    3) “As usual, the Europeans are relieved to be able to let the United States take the lead in this sordid affair”.
    Laughable. If this was the case Assange would be in the US right now.
    4) “If he makes it back to Australia he might never be able to travel safely outside his home country again”
    And why would you think he’ll be safe in Oz?

    From what I can see, your strengths lie in software, not in current affairs. Leave this sort of stuff to others, who have something worth saying, and stick to what you know and understand – software.

  • Yes, @Tony P , this is a biased piece. That’s what Op/Ed pieces are for. Now let’s look at your objections…

    1. So, your point would seem to be that the UK won’t extradite him to the U.S. because he might face the death penalty, but they will extradite him to Sweden so they can turn him over to the U.S. to possibly face the death penalty. How is that different from what I wrote?

    2. You seem to have misunderstood the quote you’re commenting upon. I didn’t write that Assange and WikiLeaks aren’t getting support outside of Europe and Israel. I said the U.S. position against Assange and WikiLeaks aren’t getting much support.

    3. If you read the rest of my article, Europe is looking like they have clean hands in this sordid affair, so they’re not to eager to give the appearance of cooperating. The UK’s and Sweden’s actions would appear to be prompted by the US.

    4. With some exceptions, the Australian press is supporting Assange. In addition, there have been some noises from the Australian government that something can be worked out if he can make it home. Again, Assange would be well advised to make sure all I(s) are dotted and all T(s) crossed before making the trip down under.