Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since he took refuge there in 2012. He was running from multiple charges, but the murkiest are the ones threatening to have him spirited away into the US for the crime of shining a light on power. WikiLeaks is arguably one of the most important organisations in history, and now its Australian founder might be counting down his final days in London – and not willingly.
Assange has never been particularly ‘safe’, even in the confines of the Embassy. The UN and others have denounced his forced imprisonment, as it infringes upon his rights and is severely damaging to his mental and physical health. The effects of the latter are becoming clearer over time. But the Ecuadorian government has been reliable in allowing him to stay there as he waits, incredibly patiently, for freedom.
That is, until now. Ecuador’s current President, Lenin Moreno, has been much more susceptible to US pressure than his predecessor, Correa. Talks between the two nations have been moving towards the US aiding Ecuador (read: imperialist pressure and manoeuvring), and it seems one of the top priorities for the US side of negotiations is Assange.
It is rather disheartening, but not surprising, therefore, that any pretext, real or manufactured, could lead to him being expelled from the Embassy. So what reason is there for this sudden threat of betrayal? Well, it depends on who you ask, of course.
The Guardian and the New York Times have given the story very little coverage, and what they have reported is on the wrong issues. They happily parrot the outrage of Moreno’s unproven accusations regarding WikiLeaks’ involvement in leaking private data.
“Ecuador President Blames WikiLeaks for Leak of Private Data” – NYT headline.
“Julian Assange has ‘repeatedly violated’ asylum terms, Ecuador’s president says” – Guardian headline.
While both articles do admit that the claims of Assange being behind the leak of private photos are dubious, it is made the crux of the story and made out to be the reason why Assange is on the edge. Dig deeper and you’ll realise the real “reason” Assange supposedly ‘violated’ his terms, and why even that is a farce.
Known as the INA Papers, Moreno has been swept up in a scandal where documents potentially containing evidence that he was involved in a number of financial crimes – including dealings in Panama – have been sent anonymously to an Ecuadorian legislator. WikiLeaks has denied involvement and have no documents on their website related to the scandal in any way. What they did do is post about it on social media, and, of course, since the accusations have simply posted about it more, refuting the Ecuadorian President’s attacks.
Tellingly, the Guardian gave a meagre paragraph to mention the INA Papers, and only partially quoted a tweet by WikiLeaks in response to Moreno’s threats. The NYT, from what I could find, did not even mention the INA Papers, but they did quote in full the response from WikiLeaks.
There is no reason to believe that WikiLeaks was involved with the INA Papers directly, so Moreno’s accusations can be disregarded. The next question is how, then, can they use this to cast Assange out? Realistically, there is no basis for that. The “conditions” of his refuge say he cannot comment on the political affairs of any country, but his right to freedom of expression technically makes that an unviable edict. However, it wasn’t even Assange that commented about it – WikiLeaks’ own Twitter account did, and they are not bound by any conditions set by Ecuador.
So what does this show us? First off, that it seems quite likely the Moreno is corrupt, and now that he’s been caught out he’s become desperate to create a distraction. It also tells us that he has conceded to the US. Not only is Ecuador possibly set to receive financial aid from the US, but the increased pressure on dealing with Assange is clearly a political move. Seeing as the current pretext has no basis, it is undoubtedly political, both in Ecuador to keep attention off the INA Papers scandal, and globally to push Assange into the US’ hands.
As a brief aside, it also reveals the media’s complicity. Not that the Guardian and the NYT are expected to have articles written about an internal Ecuadorian scandal, but one would expect a much more in-depth investigation into it, seeing as it is the real issue behind Moreno’s hostility towards WikiLeaks at this time. But this is where one could draw a line between the mainstream media and power rather easily. Assange and WikiLeaks are a major thorn in the side of the US and, by default, their allies. They represent anti-establishment and anti-power ideals, and so are vilified for it. Moreno, who is fighting corruption allegations, has now been taken in by the Americans. He is one of the ‘good ones’, no matter how bad in truth, and so little needs to be said about him unless it is in support of the US.
Here is the full tweet by WikiLeaks:
“If President Moreno wants to illegally terminate a refugee publisher’s asylum to cover up an offshore corruption scandal, history will not be kind,”
One can only hope Assange makes it out of this intrigue safely. It would help if our (the Australian) government would actually do something to aid him, but our politicians are too busy being America’s lapdogs and not going to work.
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