Ecuador to withdraw asylum protection for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
Julian Assange, the founder of the hacker site Wikileaks, has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012, granted asylum so that he could avoid a warrant from the Swedish government on sexual assault charges. Assange feared - rightly - that if he was taken into custody by the British, he would be extradited to the United States to face potential charges of leaking classified information.
Assange claimed that once on US soil, intelligence agencies would exact their revenge on him for leaking millions of documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan war, among other transgressions. But now, a new president was elected in Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, and his government is finding Assange's presence on their soil an irritant.
His access to the internet had been taken away and for the last several months, lived in virtual isolation. The Intercept is reporting that Moreno is negotiating with the British to release him into their custody.
A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement.
The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange’s asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told the Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno’s government has returned Ecuador to a highly “subservient” and “submissive” posture toward western governments.
It is thus highly unlikely that Moreno – who has shown himself willing to submit to threats and coercion from the UK, Spain and the U.S. – will obtain a guarantee that the U.K. not extradite Assange to the U.S., where top Trump officials have vowed to prosecute Assange and destroy WikiLeaks.
The central oddity of Assange’s case – that he has been effectively imprisoned for eight years despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime – is virtually certain to be prolonged once Ecuador hands him over to the U.K. Even under the best-case scenario, it appears highly likely that Assange will continue to be imprisoned by British authorities.
Assange has chosen to be a prisoner for the last 8 years in order to avoid being prosecuted by the US for being responsible for the largest leak of classified information in US history. "Effectively imprisoned" is a ridiculous assertion by Intercept writer Glenn Greenwald. Assange imprisoned himself.
Needless to say, the Trump administration would dearly love to get their hands on Assange. Making an example of him to other "whistleblowers" who may think they can get away with leaking classified information would be extremely valuable.
For those who believe Assange to be some kind of hero, it should be noted that his publishing of top secret and classified documents has almost certainly led to the deaths of US assets. Most experts believe that the release of that information could have been handled in such a way that assets would not have been placed at risk. But in his eagerness to feed his gigantic ego, Assange didn't care enough to save lives.
Since it isn't likely that the death penalty is on the table for Assange in the US, the British will almost certainly agree to extradite him, unless they negotiate a separate deal with Ecuador regarding his status. For all the damage done to our short and long term interests, Assange should go to prison for many years.