Thursday morning, Julian Assange lost his safe place in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after seven years. Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, revoked his asylum, citing breaches of international law. The following video from The Independent shows British police dragging Assange out of the embassy.
By James Sweet III | United States
If Julian Assange decided to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London tomorrow, he could leave knowing that he may not be extradited to the United States. According to Ecuador’s President, Lenin Moreno, the British government has guaranteed that the founder of Wikileaks would not be extradited to any nation that may serve him the death penalty.
Moreno stated in a radio interview Thursday that he has received written assurances from the British government that they will not extradite Assange to a foreign country that could put the man to death. In the United States, Assange is facing several charges for leaking classified information regarding diplomatic cables and war crimes in the Middle East. The possible sentence for these crimes could carry the death penalty.
Assange has been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, being granted asylum under former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. His access to the internet was cut by the Ecuadorian government, although it was recently restored, and he hasn’t seen sunlight in years. While the current President has stated he will not force Assange out, Moreno revealed that the asylee’s team is discussing what to do next.
Assange could still be extradited to the United States, however, if American prosecutors promised not to pursue the death penalty. Wikileaks revealed in mid-November that the government of the United States was pursuing charges against Assange, but they are currently sealed and the charges federal prosecutors may pursue are unknown.
Regardless, this is an important step for Julian Assange. The activist’s chances of leaving the embassy without fear of a shortened life have increased. If he did indeed leave the embassy and was kept in the United Kingdom, it would be a victory for government transparency advocates around the world, although not being arrested is preferable.
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By Josh Hughes | United States
The federal government has inadvertently named WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a court filing in an unrelated case. The naming of Assange appears to have been by accident, as the charges came up on the file for a man charged with sex crimes. But, this shows that the Justice Department has his name on file and has likely charged him in a secret case. A spokesman for the attorney’s office simply stated that the filing was an error, while the FBI has declined the comment at all. The whole affair seems very secretive and mysterious, and for good reason. Assange has been a Justice Department target for some time now. Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since August of 2012. Without a doubt, his extradition and trial in the U.S. are important to many people of both major parties.
WikiLeaks and those associated with it are often accused of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. It is a wordy document, but it basically makes it illegal to leak classified documents or anything else to the detriment of the United States, specifically in wartime. WikiLeaks has been in the news quite a bit over the past decade for releasing many notable pieces. These include documents about CIA spying, war crimes, and U.S. atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. More recently, however, they have made international news for the involvement in the alleged Russian hacking of the DNC’s emails in the 2016 presidential election.
Charging Assange: A Dark Move
Would pressing charges against the organization and Assange be a good thing for the U.S. to do? In a time when the current administration is under heavy fire for limiting the press and making the media the enemy, perhaps it would be best to lay off such outlets whose sole intent is to provide transparency. WikiLeaks and Assange did nothing wrong; their sole crimes are the exposure of government crimes.
How could anyone, especially from a party that claims to support government transparency, support the arrest of a man and an organization who does just that? In times like these, perhaps suppression of the media isn’t the way to go. Admittedly, the government would never encourage hackers, leakers, and other whistleblowers. However, it may be more beneficial to drop the charges and continue to let Assange operate out of his base in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. To be fair, WikiLeaks has never been partial or partisan, exposing both left and right wing issues.
With the election of right-leaning Lenin Moreno as president of Ecuador, Assange may be facing an uphill battle. Extradition is a very tough case, one Assange has promised to fight. For the time being, he is safe, but officials in the embassy have begun to be stricter towards him. He has not left the embassy in months. The near future will be interesting to follow with the WikiLeaks foundation. The loss of Assange would be a huge blow to the liberty movement. For now, all one can do is hope for his safety.
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