For the past 450 days, the tiny Ecuadorian embassy adjoining a posh London shopping center has been host to a guest: Julian Assange. After having pledged to appeal the UK Supreme Court decision that he be handed over to Sweden to stand trial for rape, he jumped bail and entered the embassy, and shortly thereafter was granted asylum by Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa.
Correa and Assange had a friendly relationship prior, including a jovial interview from Assange on Russian television where they laughed at each other's jokes and treated each other as best friends and allies against US imperialism. So it wasn't really surprising to most observers when asylum was granted by Correa's government. Ecuador stated that Assange is welcome in the embassy as long as he chooses.
But will that continue to be the case? Some recent evidence suggests it might not be. More below the fold.
Assange is fresh off of a catastrophically bad loss in his run for the Australian senate. His most famous campaign ad had him donning a mullet wig and singing 80s rock, in a video that also contained explitives and a misogyny directed at the prime minister.
The ad got him some attention that he wasn't looking for - namely, from Ecuador's president Correa, who stated:
"We have sent him a letter: he can campaign politically, but without making fun of Australian politicians. We are not going to allow that. The rules of asylum in principle forbid meddling in the politics of the country that grants asylum.If this had been in isolation, it might have been meaningless. But it wasn't; this was the third time in recent months Correa has directed criticism at his embassy guest. First came Assange's working around the Ecuadorian government to give Snowden Ecuadorian travel papers. What were these unauthorized travel papers?
The Consul General of Ecuador in London grants this SAFE CONDUCT for the citizen, whose details are below. This document extends to allow direct transfer to the territory of Ecuador for asylum purposes. It is requested to the appropriate authorities in transit countries give appropriate regard so that the bearer of this document to complete their trip to Ecuador.Of course, Snowden had not only not been given asylum by Ecuador, but the case hadn't even been taken up. Investigation of the matter revealed metadata on the document which showed it came from the computer of Javier Mendoza, vice consul in London, and that the consul edited it as well. When pressed on the issue, it was revealed to be a decision the consul made working in conjunction with Assange. Correa's response?
The official position is that the Ecuadorian government has NOT authorized any pass for anybody. Any document that exists has no validity.Emphasis in the original.
Assange issued an apology for any embarrassment he may have caused Ecuador - only, to shortly thereafter, make claims that Biden was bullying Ecuador, causing Correa to have to clarify later in an interview that he was not bullied, that Biden was polite and Ecuador would never allow itself to be bullied, and how would Assange know what he talked about on a private call?
And then came the campaign ad issue.
But none of those are the reason I'm writing this now. No, this is because the concept of reconsidering the Assange issue is starting to get discussed in the Ecuadorian press.
I've long been rather disappointed with the Ecuadorian press in general on the Assange case. Almost everything that I've come across thusfar has been written not just from a rhetorically pro-Assange point of view, but almost without fail grossly misrepresenting even the basic the facts of his rape case. So I was quite surprised to, in the past couple days, see not one, but two articles saying that it's time to revisit the asylum decision.
"Assange and the Inexplicable Asylum" headlines an editorial. "The main reasons for asylum to Assange were diluted in 15 months" headlines a news article. Inside, we see (translation):
The loss of Julian Assange in elections in Australia is not the only setback that the hacker has suffered in the past three weeks.Will the decision be revisited? I personally have no idea. Ecuador is a sovereign nation and will make its own decisions, and Correa will be president until 2017 (after which he does not plan to stand again). But with even Manning having the possibility of parole after just 7 years and Assange's apparent inability to refrain from interfering with Ecuadorian diplomacy, it is a possibility worthy of note.
Not only has he failed in his campaign from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, but he has gradually lost the ground on the arguments that supported his request for asylum in Ecuador.
The sentence the soldier Bradley (sic) Manning, the source information - has almost derailed the central reasons wielded by the Wikileaks founder in June 2012 to seek protection.
These reasons were that their lives were at risk, so they presumably could be sentenced to life imprisonment or the death penalty in the U.S. for having published in 2010 the secret cables delivered by Manning.
However, the conviction that Manning received August 21 is far from the penalties that the Australian hacker feared.
A military court sentenced him (sic) to 35 years in prison for revealing confidential information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the cables of the US embassies.
However, the U.S. soldier's own defense anticipates that in practice the sentence will be reduced. His (sic) lawyer David Coombs said Manning could be out in seven years, due to its good performance and three and a half years already served.
Even last week, lawyers raised the order of clemency to President Barack Obama to pardon or reduce the penalty for Manning, who was also demoted to private and dishonorably discharged.
There is no penalty
With this background connected to the arguments of asylum to Assange, lawyers and former foreign ministers consulted by this newspaper argues that these have lost ground.
Especially because in a possible prosecution of Assange in the U.S., which does not currently exist, it is difficult to be punished more severely than their source of information. "Manning was a soldier and an American and was convicted of a crime against the homeland. But as Assange does not owe allegiance to the U.S. nor its military, it would be highly curious if the punishment would be greater." That is the analysis of constitutional lawyer Oyarte Rafael, who notes that Ecuador has the power to review its position on the asylum granted to the founder of the website Wikileaks.
Also concurring are former foreign ministers Heinz Moeller and José Ayala Lasso, who emphasize that the case of Private Manning weaken the arguments on which Ecuador granted asylum to Assange. "It is visible that the circumstances under which asylum was mistakenly given have changed. Keeping Assange (at the Embassy in London) is a whim position, especially after he was rejected at the polls," says Moeller.
The previous year, to grant asylum, the Ecuadorian Government endorsed the arguments Assange allegedly integrity was at risk.
"There are serious indications of retaliation by the country or countries that produced the information disclosed by Mr. Assange, reprisal that may jeopardize their safety, integrity, and even his life," the Foreign Ministry said in the statement of asylum.
For the former Chancellor Ayala Lasso, Manning provides evidence that under no circumstances Assange could be subject to the maximum penalties. In this regard, he also points out that that in Europe there is a multilateral treaty which prevents a citizen from being extradited out of the block, which was another reason for granting asylum.
So Ayala Lasso Moeller and argue that the Ecuadorian government could reassess the situation of Assange and to end the political protection.
However, the administration of Rafael Correa has not acted in this regard. Yesterday, this newspaper ran the check to Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja, who noted that Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño only provided these dates on ruling on the status of the 'hacker'.
June 19, 2012. Julian Assange joins the Ecuadorian Embassy in United Kingdom for protection August 18, 2012 . Ecuador grants political protection to the creator of Wikileaks and calls London the pass to arrive in the country.
June 17, 2013. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño visit to his British counterpart, William Hague. They form a bi-national legal committee to analyze the case.
The 'fear' of the creator of WikiLeaks
Julian Assange does not want to be extradited to UK to Sweden, where the prosecutor is requiring that he submit to questioning for alleged sexual offenses. Two women accuse him of rape.
After the British courts refused Assange's request to deny the extradition request, he asked for protection from Ecuador. He says that Sweden will supposedly extradite him to the U.S.
According to the version of the founder of Wikileaks, U.S. there is supposedly a secret jury in the US which wishes to prosecute him for spreading secrets and which wants a life sentence or the death penalty.
Ecuador supported that version and he was granted asylum. The United Kingdom has not granted Assange safe passage to leave the embassy. It argues that it has an obligation to comply with extradition to Sweden.