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Amid an immigration crisis, Julian Assange asks for asylum

Leah McLaren on how WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s plea for protection in France couldn’t have come at a worse time


 
Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

Of all the desperate migrants seeking asylum in Europe last week in the hope of a better life,   Julian Assange was perhaps the least sympathetic.

In a summer that’s seen thousands of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean off the shores of Italy and Greece, and, more recently, storming the Calais tunnel for passage into the U.K., Assange’s open letter to President François Hollande, printed last week in Le Monde, hit a distinctly off note. The Australian WikiLeaks founder has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, when prosecutors in Sweden announced they wanted to question him for alleged sex crimes, including rape, sexual molestation and illegal coercion.

Assange denies the allegations (no formal charges have been made) and says the European warrant for his arrest is, in fact, part of an extensive plot by American authorities to have him extradited to the U.S., where he could be tried for treason. In his letter to Hollande, Assange stated that his life was in danger, and that,“by welcoming me, France would carry out a humanitarian and symbolic gesture, sending encouragement to every journalist and whistleblower.”

According to the letter, his request was prompted by an invitation to visit France from a group of French civil rights activists backed by French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira. In June, Taubira told French news channel BFMTV that she “absolutely would not be surprised” if France granted asylum to both Assange and National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently living in Russia. She added that it would be a “symbolic gesture,” in part motivated by the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of three French presidents.

Yet Assange’s plea was not well-received at the highest levels of French government. The French president’s office responded immediately with an unequivocal smackdown. “The situation of Mr. Assange does not present any immediate danger,” the statement read. “Furthermore, he is subject to a European arrest warrant.”

In a head-scratching (and hair-splitting) turn of events, Assange’s legal team responded by saying that he hadn’t actually made any request at all. Baltasar Garzón, the head of his defence team, told the British media that Assange’s letter had not been a request for asylum, but an expression of his willingness “to be hosted in France if, and only if, an initiative was taken by the competent authorities.”

But reading the letter, it seems awfully clear that Assange was hoping for the same protection once extended to that other high-profile accused rapist, the American director Roman Polanski. Assange describes himself as a “journalist pursued and threatened with death by the United States authorities” (though he does not give evidence of the alleged death threats). He links the claim to the 2010 WikiLeaks release of a classified video leak by the soldier Chelsea Manning (a male-to-female transsexual then-named Bradley). The video showed a series of ground-to-air strikes by American forces against unarmed Iraqis that ended up killing 18 civilians, including two Reuters journalists. (In 2013, Manning was charged and convicted of offences under the U.S. Espionage Act and sentenced to 35 years in prison.)

In an extra twist, in his open letter, Assange added that his youngest child, whom he hasn’t seen in five years (and whose sex he will not specify), lives in France with the child’s mother. “I have had to keep their existence secret up to today, in order to protect them,” he wrote. Assange has long been rumoured by tabloids to have fathered several children around the world. According to the book WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy by Guardian journalists Luke Harding and David Leigh, Assange was enamoured with the idea of impregnating the many women he slept with, and balked at the idea of contraception.

According to the European arrest warrant, he is accused of raping a 26-year-old Swedish woman whom he “improperly exploited” because she, “due to sleep, was in a helpless state.” According to Swedish statutes of limitation, prosecutors only have until August to question Assange about the crimes of which he’s accused. But they also have until 2020 to investigate the most serious allegation of rape.

He remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy, but has said he is planning to leave “soon.” Two members of London’s metropolitan police force are continually on guard outside the Embassy, in case he decides to do so. Earlier this year, Scotland Yard confirmed that policing Assange has so far cost the British taxpayers almost $20 million.


 

Amid an immigration crisis, Julian Assange asks for asylum

  1. Assange is nothing more than a self serving narcissist who has little use for the truth when applied to him.

    His contention that he fears that Sweden will extradite him to the US is nothing but a smokescreen to hide his guilt.
    And given the extradition treaties between the US and Sweden and the US and Britain, the US could have actually extradited him directly from Britain with a lot less hassle than via trumped up charges in Sweden.

    Yet he made no attempt to go into hiding in Britain until attempts were made to extradite him to Sweden to face accusations of rape.
    Logically then, the only reason he does not travel to Sweden to clear his name is because he believes that he is guilty and will be forced to suffer the consequences of his crime, so instead he skulks like a cornered rat hiding in some dark hole.

    His victims may never get their day in court, but if not, they can at least take solace in knowing that he is voluntarily serving out part of his sentence in an Ecuadorian embassy.

  2. @CLIVEL, I believe you mean “alleged victims”. And if you DON’T mean “alleged victims” then really your opinion is worthless.

    Are you aware that anyone in the world can be tried for treason in the U.S. even non U.S. citizens? Are you aware that Sweden and the U.S. have a special extradition agreement that allows any person of any nationality of any interest to the U.S. to be secretly extradited from Sweden to the U.S. without any trial or legal representation and then secretly tried for treason in the U.S. ?

    No? Oh… Well… Then I guess your logic has some holes. And since you want to discuss logic and rape allegations. Let’s do that too. This is a precedence in international law that was not even afforded to Roman Polanski where unlike with Assange, Polansky did indeed have charges brought against him. But Polanski had to be tricked into showing up into the accusers country to even be brought to trial. In the case with Assange, I wonder why Sweden and the U.S. and the U.K. would go to such extralegal dramatic lengths to want to extradite someone with out even having formal charges. And why all of his financial accounts would be extralegally frozen by PayPal, Visa, American Express, etc. << Also a legal precedence.

    One should come to a conclusion that with A.) No formal charges B.) A man with access to information that can bring governments to their knees C.) participation from financial corporations and governments to see him silenced. That there just might be more than meets the eye.

    But you probably already know that, didn't you "Clivel". Seeing as how your "smokescreen" comes in the form of a NAT firewall redirected multiple times and spewing hate rhetoric through a SOCK PUPPET in the comment section of an article that sincerely bashes one of the greatest threats to censorship our generation has ever known. Tu tiene mierde cojones. Choke on Hillary's dripping phallussssss.

    Assange 1
    Great Dragon of Beelzebub 0

    • @phalanges_phraud
      Your comment is so convoluted and illogical, that the only possible conclusion one may draw from it, is that you are absolutely totally and
      completely insane.
      I am sure the correct medication would be of an enormous help to you.

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