After 6 six years of arbitrary detention in the basement of the Ecuadorian Embassy in Belgravia, London, the world’s longest slow-motion chase may be reaching its climatic conclusion.
It appears that Ecuador has caved into US pressure on the issue. When they first gave asylum to Assange in 2012, his stock was high among the international liberal intelligensia, and so then President Rafael Correa was able to use this as a public relations brace against western pressure on the issue. Unfortunately, the 2016 US Election changed all that, as Assange and Wikileaks were blamed for hurting Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House. Instead Assange is now shunned by the Liberal Left and embraced by supporters of Trump and Russia – two reasons why the current Ecuadorian government appear ready to wash their hands of Assange’s cause.
Another sign that the US forces are pushing events is last week’s announcement that an Ecuadorian court ordered the arrest of Assange’s main ally former President Correa – leaving Assange more isolated than ever.
According to reports, events could accelerate as soon as this Monday morning.
RT International reported today…
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno is either about to strike or has already struck an agreement with British authorities on withdrawing the asylum protection of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald reports.
Moreno is visiting the UK as part of his European trip between July 22 and 28. His visit is not said to be an official one, so he is not expected to meet with any high-ranking UK officials and would instead participate in the Global Disability Summit on July 24, which is co-hosted by the UK government.
However, the Ecuadorian leader is also expected to use his trip to the British Isles to “finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange,” according to the Intercept’s co-editor, Glenn Greenwald, who is best known for a series of reports detailing the US surveillance programs based on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Greenwald also supported and defended Wikileaks, as well as the whistleblowers who provided materials for the website, for many years.
Moreno is “close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized,” the agreement, Greenwald writes, citing an unnamed “source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office.” Under this agreement, the WikiLeaks founder could be ejected from the Ecuadorian Embassy and handed over to the UK authorities “as early as this week,”Greenwald says.
Earlier, RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said, citing her own sources, that Ecuador is ready to hand Assange over to the UK in “coming weeks or even days.” According to Greenwald, such a development could lead to Assange being sent to jail for at least one more year “under his best-case scenario,” which would mean that he would have spent nearly a decade imprisoned “despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime.”
As Sweden dropped its sexual assault investigation against Assange back in May 2017, the only criminal proceeding he is now facing in the UK is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender.” It goes back to Assange obtaining asylum from Ecuador and finding refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy instead of complying with bail conditions in the UK.
Such an offense carries a prison term of three months, Greenwald says, warning, however, that the UK authorities could potentially elevate charges against Assange to “contempt of court,” which carries a prison term of up to two years. Besides, UK authorities are unlikely to provide a guarantee that the WikiLeaks founder would not be extradited to the US, which is apparently bent on imprisoning him for releasing classified documents.
Publication of classified materials is technically a crime for anyone in the US, but US Department of Justice officials have been reluctant to prosecute anyone on such charges so far, due to concerns that such a case could lead to them being accused of violating press freedom rights and, thus, the First Amendment.
Any journalist who cheers when the Sessions DOJ indicts WikiLeaks and Assange for publishing docs – as they have vowed to do – should just never again pretend to believe in press freedom. Same for those who supported the DNC lawsuit against WikiLeaks for *publishing* documents. https://t.co/AB7wqumvGO
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 21, 2018
However, the Trump administration has seemingly made clear that they have no such concerns. While he was still in charge of the CIA, Mike Pompeo once said that while WikiLeaks, “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice . . . they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”
21st Century Wire says…
And there you have it. While this long chapter finally closes, a whole new international legal drama is now set to unfold – and with so much at stake and so many players and factions involved – it may take a further 5 years to resolve.
The reality is that the US may face some serious legal challenges when attempting to extradite and ultimately prosecute Assange in the US. While Swedish charges have been dropped, the law is not on Washington’s side if they are hoping to bring the Wikileaks founder in under the heading “espionage”. While it makes for good political rhetoric in the US, Assange is technically a publisher and Wikileaks is a media outlet – and no amount of spin in Washington can change that. Eventually, a court will have to rule on this crucial distinction. With this in mind, a strong case can be made in the British legal system that his situation has become politicized, including numerous belligerent statements made already by leading US political figures, including a statement made by current President Trump) and therefore he would in no way be given a fair trial in the United States. On this point, Assange could retain some of the best human rights barristers, and will have a substantial legal fund to fight his case, in which case he may ride out a short sentence on remand in the UK, but still be somewhat cornered by US efforts to either apprehend him or restrict his movement afterwards.
In addition to this, if eventually pushed into the hands of Washington’s legal system, Assange may still possess some serious leverage. Aside from knowledge of any potentially embarrassing undisclosed Snowden leaks, Julian Assange may also have intimate knowledge of the DNC Leaks (or DNC ‘hack’ at his detractors commonly refer to it). The viability of the US establishment’s entire Russiagate narrative hinges on on how the DNC narrative is perceived by the wider public, and the US establishment would like very much for any new information which might alter their current narrative of “Russian hacking” – to remain out of the public discourse. This piece of information alone, and whether or not it airs publicly – could potentially be enough for Assange to bargain his way to freedom if caught on the other side of the Atlantic.
Even if he’s turned over this week, this story is far from over.
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