Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Julian Assange appears in public at Embassy


Having been granted political asylum by the Government of Ecuador, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, the internet whistle blowers site, appeared on a balcony of the country's Embassy in London on Sunday to give a statement to scores of waiting Press and photographic journalists crowding outside along with a large crowd of Assange supporters who had also gathered to express solidarity with the controversial journalist.

With London Metropolitan Police officers standing only yards away, Assange called on President Obama to abandon what he called a "witch-hunt" against WikiLeaks. He said an alleged "FBI investigation" against his whistleblowing website should be "dissolved" and that the US should go back to its original "revolutionary" values.

"As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies," Assange said, standing on a small balcony just above the pavement, and flanked by Ecuador's yellow, blue and red flag. He added: "I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks."
Assange also thanked Ecuador's social democrat president, Rafael Correa, for granting him political asylum. Correa's decision, announced last Thursday, has set off a growing international row. Assange also thanked several other Latin American countries for their support – implicitly warning Britain that any dispute with Ecuador could rapidly snowball into a conflict with the entire region.

More than 50 police officers had  surrounded the Embassy in Knightsbridge, south-west London, on Sunday, with a police helicopter in the skies above. Assange addressed  the crowd of supporters including Tariq Ali and former British ambassador Craig Murray making speeches from the street.

Assange spoke for 10 minutes. This was his first public appearance since he arrived at the Embassy two months ago and the latest surreal episode in a political circus that has seen him go from the High Court to house arrest in Norfolk and then to an embassy camp-bed in genteel Kensington and Chelsea.The 41-year-old Australian took refuge in the Embassy after the Supreme Court ordered his extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of "serious sexual misconduct" of dubious authorship. Assange stated his predicament was a universal one of free speech struggling to survive in a "dangerous and oppressive world". Britain says it is obliged to implement EU extradition law and will arrest Assange the moment he leaves the building. Speaking from the balcony in southwest London, Assange claimed that the Metropolitan Police had come close to storming the Embassy late last Wednesday. Britain sent a letter to Ecuador last week stating that it believes it is entitled to arrest Assange inside the building under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987. The claim has enraged the government in Quito, which says the 1961 Vienna Convention protects its – and others' – diplomatic territory.

Assange said: "Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape." He said the only reason the UK "did not throw away the Vienna Convention the other night" was because "the world is watching". He also thanked embassy staff, "who have shown me hospitality and kindness, despite the threats we all received".

But, Assange's provocative balcony appearance, in which he praised "courageous Ecuador" while disparaging Britain, will have antagonised an already hostile Downing Street anxious, as ever, to please its Washington masters. Assange's supporters claim that if he is sent to Sweden he is in danger of being extradited to the US to be charged with espionage. Sweden has vehemently denied this.

On Sunday, Assange said: "Will the US return to and reaffirm the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world?" He said there should be no "foolish talk" about prosecuting media organisations, mentioning not only WikiLeaks but also the New York Times, a paper Assange has previously bitterly criticised.

He also called on the US to end its "war on whistleblowers", and demanded that Bradley Manning, the US army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking information, be released.
Manning has been charged with transferring classified data and delivering national defence information to an unauthorised source. He faces up to 52 years in jail.
Assange called him a hero and "an example to all of us" – drawing cheers from WikiLeaks fans packing the Knightsbridge pavement. "On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial," Assange said. "The legal maximum is 120 days."
Assange also made mention of his children, "who have been denied their father". He said he hoped soon to be back with them and the rest of his family, adding: "Forgive me, we will be reunited soon."


The asylum decision was announced by the Foreign Affairs minister, Ricardo Patiño, in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito and was watched live by Assange and embassy staff via a video link to the press conference.
Senor Patiño said the Ecuadorian government had conducted lengthy diplomatic talks with the British, Swedish and US governments. None would give the guarantees about Assange's future that the South American country was seeking and had shown "no willingness" to negotiate on the issue. US authorities were specifically asked if they had any intention to seek Assange's extradition so they could start legal proceedings against him, and what the maximum penalty was that he could face.
"The response from the United States has been that it cannot offer any guarantees. With these precedents in mind the Ecuadorian government, loyal to its tradition to protect those who seek refuge with us and in our diplomatic mission, have decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Mr Assange."
Senor Patiño called for Assange to be guaranteed safe passage to leave the embassy but the Foreign Office insisted this would not be offered.


Ecuador has secured an emergency meeting of the Organisation of American States over what Ecuador says is Britain's threat to invade its Embassy in London to arrest Assange, the Ecuadoreans are pushing for similar meetings of the Union of South American Nations, the ALBA association of Bolivarian states and the UN.On the agenda for the OAS meeting will be both Ecuador's claims that the UK has threatened the principle of "inviolable" status of its embassy in the UK and demands that the UK grant "safe passage" for Assange out of the UK. The OAS voted to hold a meeting Friday 24th following Ecuador's decision to grant political asylum to Assange. Assange has described the move as a "historic victory" 

The decision by the OAS to debate the affair follows a letter from the British Foreign Office to Ecuadorean authorities, warning it believed it had a legal basis to arrest Assange in the Embassy, interpreted by Ecuador as a threat to raid the building – although this has been denied by the UK which says it prefers a "negotiated outcome".

The US, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago opposed the resolution, but 23 members voted in favour of the meeting. There were five abstentions and three members were absent. OAS secretary general José Miguel Insulza said the meeting would be about "the problem posed by the threat or warning made to Ecuador by the possibility of an intervention into its embassy". He added: "What is being proposed is that the foreign ministers of our organisation address this subject and not the subject of asylum nor whether it should be granted to Mr Julian Assange. That will be discussed between Great Britain and Ecuador. The issue that concerns us is the inviolability of diplomatic missions of all members of this organisation."

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, said in a radio interview on Friday that his nation was not trying to undermine Sweden's attempts to question Assange. He said: "The main reason why Julian Assange was given diplomatic asylum was because his extradition to a third country was not guaranteed; in no way was it done to interrupt the investigations of Swedish justice over an alleged crime. In no way."

The British whore press has mounted a smear campaign against Ecuador's President Rafael Correa calling him megalomaniac, dictatorial and unstable, parrotting Washington's
similar propaganda line against any Latin American leaders who fail to comply with US neo-colonialist demands. This is the main issue in this affair, not the allegations in Sweden
against Mr Assange. It should be remembered that these allegations were investigated by Swedish police and Mr Assange was told he could leave Sweden. Sometime later, a different Swedish prosecutor re-entered the case and demanded Mr Assange return to Sweden for "questioning". No criminal charges were ever brought to indictment. This has led to the reasonable suspicion that the second application was politically motivated. The subsequent attempts by Swedish authorities to have Mr Assange extradited from Britain were unjustified since he had already agreed to answer any questions from Swedish police at any time in London. The London High Court, in agreeing the extradition demand, went against majority precedent in European cases which do not allow extradition for mere "questioning" so this decision too, must be suspect of political motivitation. Those who insist
on making this a "feminist" issue are doing Washington's work either by default or by deliberate choice. It is the criminal acts of murder by the USA across the world which should be indicted and its subversion and interference in the internal affairs of countries hostile to US foreign policy which should be roundly condemned by all those who believe in Universal Human Rights and application of International Law to all countries, however powerful.

Áth Cliath/Dublin
Lunasa/August 21 2012

Craig Murray speech outside Ecuador Embassy, London, 19.08.2012:

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