Last June, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took shelter in the embassy of Ecuador in London after being granted political asylum by the government of R. Correa. Assange explains that the plan shared by the Swedish, US, and British security agencies is to have him extradited to the US once Sweden gets a hold of him for a probe into sex offenses allegedly committed a couple of years ago.
Supposedly, Stockholm has long pledged assistance to Obama’s Administration in arranging for Assange to stand trial in the US for having put tens of thousands of US Department of State and Pentagon documents on display in Internet.
Assange’s legal counsel in the US M. Ratner says a group was set up in Virgina in 2010 under the oversight of the Grand Jury to analyze the materials released by WikiLeaks and to eventually implicate the outlet chief in a conspiracy to communicate defense-related information to unauthorized recipients.
The code of the case – the sinister 10/3/793 – stands for conspiracy and espionage, which may entail death penalty…
A show trial in the US leading to a shock sentence should ring a bell for potential whistleblowers annoying the Empire, and, therefore, Assange cannot expect to be treated fairly. At present, his tentative information source B. Manning is known to be under mounting pressure in the US custody.
Evidently being a person of outstanding courage, Assange still need not expose himself to the risks imminent in the hands of the US politically motivated and expediency-driven justice and will make the necessary efforts to stay clear of its reach.
The mission championed by Assange – keeping the world audiences up to date concerning the ruling elites’ criminal workings – requires that the man remains free.
The government of Ecuador must be credited with responsible conduct for extending political asylum to Assange. Ahead of the step, it had put under scrutiny the charges Assange is facing from the Swedish justice, and the findings cast the whole plot in a different light.
It transpired that the key charges were pressed by Anna Ardin, a Cuban woman formerly connected to the US intelligence operatives who served in the Mission of the US Interests Section in Havana.
In Cuba, she helped the US agents link up with locals dissenter groups and NGOs, and, after leaving the country, moved to Sweden to participate in USAID-sponsored anti-Castro campaigns. Furthermore, there is information that Ardin also did jobs for the CIA and Mossad in Palestine.
She acted as Assange’s assistant during his media conference on free speech for the Swedish Social Democratic Party, an event at which Sophie Wilden, the other woman to accuse Assange of sexual mischief, was a photographer.
According to Swedish media accounts, the two women discussed their intimate experiences with Assange after he left for London, felt similarly outraged by Asange’s male chauvinism, and finally went to the police to lodge complaints.
Initially, the case seemed stillborn, but upstream judicial authorities intervened and it began to unravel as the US wished it to. No doubt, president Correa was fully aware that the decision to host Assange would draw Washington’s ire.
So far, Obama’s Administration refrains from statements on the Assange case or the role recently taken by Ecuador in it, as those would likely be counterproductive. Past US attempts to talk tough to president Correa cost the US a series of ejections of American diplomats and CIA operatives from Ecuador.
For example, the Ecuadoran authorities ordered out US ambassador Heather M. Hodges who neglected to apologize when WikiLeaks published her cable alleging that Correa knowingly appointed a corrupt politician – as a figure easy to control – to the post of the national police chief.
US representatives in Great Britain worried that Assange might go into hiding and pushed for his being sent to Sweden as soon as possible, but Assange’s logic was different from what they projected. He believed in the determination of Ecuador to hold its own.
Assange interviewed Correa for Russia Today, and the conversation highlighted the Ecuadoran leader’s commitment to the right of the people to the uncut picture and, generally, to building a world better than today’s.
The collapse of the US-British plan angered Great Britain’s foreign office which went as far as to threaten that the Ecuadoran embassy in London might be raided. Assange said that British agents actually tried to get in via the rear entry, but the presence of potential eyewitnesses rendered the plan impractical.
Confident that no rules exist for top Western powers, British Foreign Secretary William Hague did no bother to chose appropriate language when he spoke about the stalemate. President Correa responded by drumming up support among Ecuador’s Latin American peers.
Venezuela’s H. Chavez was the first to weigh in, stressing that the epoch of imperial dominance is long over and warning that ALBA would not shy away from radical measures if the British police muscles its way into the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
Latin American regional groups – ALBA and UNASUR – as well as many of the CELAC member-countries aligned themselves with Ecuador, Organization of American states sharply criticized London over the embassy invasion threats, and the British Foreign office announced that the 1961 Vienna Convention would be observed.
There is evidence, however, that plans for illicit moves aimed at the seizure of Assange are not off the table – a Press Association photographer managed to picture from a distance a sheet with instructions being read by a police officer, the order being to arrest Assange if he attempts to leave the embassy in a diplomatic car or valise.
Bloggers are expressing concerns that various tricks – an imitation of a fire in the Ecuadoran embassy, an attack using gas that causes people to fall asleep, or the escorting of Assange off the premises by people posing as his supporters – might come into play.
The embassies of the countries run by populist regimes enduring permanent CIA-coordinated surveillance and the Ecuadoran embassy being bugged all over from the outset, the British agencies should have no difficulty finding out what goes on inside.
The information thus collected is typically used to organize provocations like the one pulled off not long ago by the CIA and DEA when cocaine was placed in the Ecuadoran valises en route to Italy.
Ecuador made it clear that illegal methods to rescue Assange from isolation at the embassy – hiding the man in a diplomatic shipment or providing him with a false identity – are out of question.
The point for Assange and Ecuador alike is not that he must somehow evade the Swedish investigators who are welcome to interrogate him within the Ecuadoran embassy.
Assange would travel to Sweden, where as of today official charges against him are in fact absent, but only if Stockholm and London guarantee that no deportation to the US would follow. While the terms are not accepted by either of the countries, there are indications that a softer stance regarding the matter is a possibility.
On August 25, president Correa thanked the British government in a televised address for calling off the raid against the embassy and disavowing the treats at Ecuador, said the whole incident was over, and expressed a view that it was time to discuss the guarantees or a document to enable the WikiLeaks founder’s travel to Ecuador.
Roughly at the time, Assange’s legal counselor in London Baltasar Garzón announced that he had extremely important evidence pertinent to the sex offense charges, something that the Swedish justice was concealing, and that the outlook would likely change in Assange’s favor based on the material.
If the claim is real and the data at Garzón’s disposal is convincing, the Swedish extradition bid would fall apart and Assange would safely leave the Ecuadoran embassy.
There is an avalanche of messages flying into Assange’s mailbox these days, with his supporters urging him to stay alert and not to rely on reconciliatory signals from the British and Swedish administrations.
In the meantime, Assange’s accusers, Anna Ardin and Sophie Wilden, tend to evade the spotlight – the Swedish media people looking into the story of sex and espionage are under an impression that both are placed at a CIA hideout not far from Stockholm, bracing for the hearings in court.
Nil NIKANDROV, Strategic Culture Foundaiton