WikiLeaks’ Assange facing ‘very grave juncture’ as potential extradition looms

Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 after being accused of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2017. / Sputnik

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange faces an uncertain future as Ecuadorian officials consider whether to comply with pressure to extradite him from confinement at the South American nation’s diplomatic safe haven in London.

Earlier this month, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would have to leave Ecuador's embassy in London, where Assange took refuge in June 2012 out of fear of extradition to Sweden for a since-dropped rape case, and where he has remained for fear of extradition to the US on espionage charges for leaking thousands of classified documents related to US military operations.

Ecuador's National Communications Ministry (SECOM) later denied that the Ecuadorian president told Assange to leave the embassy and stressed that the issue should be resolved through negotiations between Ecuador and the United Kingdom.

Jennifer Robinson, Assange's legal representative in London, told media Wednesday that Australia should protect Assange.

"Julian is still an Australian citizen, and they have an obligation — and I think a duty — to exercise rights of protection over an Australian citizen," Robinson told News.com.au. "They could usefully engage in this to help solve the impasse," she said, adding that it was "disappointing" that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has not yet stepped in to aid Assange.

On Wednesday, activists Diani Baretto and Randy Credico expressed their concern over whether Assange could be evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear.

"It's a mixed signal that I'm getting," Credico told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

"I really don't know what is in the works for Julian. I talked to John Pilger [an Australian journalist] last night [who is] in Australia. He is concerned about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball not helping out. You hear some of [Assange's] lawyers, and you get all sorts of opinions and projections."

"At this point, it's so confusing. I can't make any authoritative statement about [Assange's fate] other than the fact that people are galvanized, they are mobilizing. and they are coalescing. There are demonstrations and vigils for [Assange]. The whole thing is a conundrum," Credico added.

According to Baretto, the Ecuadorian government is attempting to re-establish diplomatic links with the United States and the United Kingdom.

"There was a petition that was circulated today to all the elected members in Australia and the prime minister [Turnball] asking Australia to step in at this very grave juncture," Baretto told Radio Sputnik.

"The current president of Ecuador has done some very strange things. He says one thing one day, another thing another. The sanctity of asylum has been upheld by the inter-American court, which is a very serious thing. He cannot legally revoke asylum or have him [Assange] extradited. This is completely delusional. Ecuador is becoming another colony of the US empire," Baretto said.

"You can't return people to the country where persecution or danger exists. It's now up to the supporters, legal experts and journalists worldwide to contact elected officials and sign petitions. Sources are commenting that his [Assange's] has health worsened in the last couple of days," she added.

Credico also told Radio Sputnik Wednesday that some US publications are supporting Assange's extradition, even though those same news outlets have used documents published by WikiLeaks as source material for their reporting.

"They [such media sources] are participating, they are conspiring, they are supporting Julian Assange being extradited. They should be circulating the weapons instead of the fire squad around Julian Assange. They are commiting collective suicide," Credico said. 

Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 after being accused of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The whistleblower maintained that the charges against him were false, and that they served as an excuse to extradite him to the United States, where he is accused of espionage and of leaking thousands of classified documents related to US military operations.

Swedish authorities dropped their investigation into the sexual assault case against Assange in May 2017. However, the outstanding UK arrest warrant against him, issued for breach of bail conditions related to those charges, remains in force, and Assange would be subject to arrest if he stepped foot outside the embassy, according to London Metropolitan Police.

Sputnik

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