Break-in foiled after Julian Assange eviction plot is revealed

Julian Assange
Tom Coburg

Evidence has come to light of a deal to evict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The deal involves collusion from several countries. And if the plan goes ahead, it could see Assange forced out of the embassy within weeks or even days.

Attempted abduction?

A break-in at the embassy, meanwhile, reportedly took place on 28 October. And there is speculation that this involved a botched attempt to abduct Assange.

The WikiLeaks founder sought asylum in the embassy to prevent possible extradition to the US for leaking government documents to the public. Human rights groups have since campaigned against this possibility and against what the UN has called Assange’s ‘arbitrary deprivation of liberty‘.

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What seems clear, however, is that key players are putting more and more pressure on Ecuador to evict Assange.

US piles on pressure

The Canary has seen a copy of a letter, dated 16 October 2018, from two US congressmen on behalf of the US Congress Foreign Affairs Committee to Ecuador’s controversial president Lenin Moreno. The letter concludes:

We… feel that it will be very difficult for the United States to advance our bilateral relationship until Mr Assange is handed over to the proper authorities.

This followed a June meeting between Moreno and US vice-president Mike Pence, when they reportedly discussed Assange.

Three days after the letter, WikiLeaks released a statement. It referred to an alleged deal between Moreno and Pence.

Madrid also pulling strings?

Apparently, Madrid has also been piling pressure on Ecuador to do something about Assange ever since the WikiLeaks founder took a stand on the 2017 independence referendum in Catalonia.

Assange openly intervened in the referendum by providing online voting and registration forms, which Madrid had confiscated. In the days leading up to the referendum, meanwhile, the domains of official referendum sites were shut down; but WikiLeaks restored the main referendum site that provided information as well as voter registration details.

Madrid was incensed. And an indictment from Spain’s state prosecutor, which called for the Catalan president and his cabinet colleagues to be charged with rebellion and sedition, named two people it said had encouraged the Catalan independence referendum. The relevant paragraph translates as:

The addition of figures more or less known on the international scene, ranging from Julian Assange to Yoko Ono, was not spontaneous either. Alongside other means of managing support for the pro-independence cause, Òmnium Cultural created the website www.letcatalansvote.org/en for that purpose.

Significantly, Moreno paid a visit to London and then Madrid in July 2018, ostensibly to speak at the Global Disability Summit. But Assange was almost certainly a topic of discussion.

US case against WikiLeaks

CIA director Mike Pompeo has previously stated that, as Assange is not a US citizen, he “has no First Amendment freedoms”. He also told the Center for Strategic and International Studies that:

It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is – a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.

US authorities are reportedly preparing charges against Assange. These could include “conspiracy, theft of government property or violating the Espionage Act”. Regarding the latter, Pompeo explained that WikiLeaks had allegedly “directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States”.

However, the late Michael Ratner (Assange’s US lawyer) was certain that the most likely charge Assange could face was “conspiracy to commit espionage”.

Plot thickens

Ecuador’s attorney general Íñigo Salvador has reportedly indicated that the most likely scenario to solve the Assange matter would be for Ecuador to seek international arbitration (most likely with the aim of avoiding its legal obligations):

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, meanwhile, has speculated that, once Assange is forced out of the embassy, the US would seek his extradition. But while that extradition request is considered, Assange could be imprisoned for months, if not years.

Condemnation

On the recent developments, Assange’s Australian lawyer Greg Barns told The Canary:

The US has no respect for international law concerning asylum and is blackmailing the Ecuadorian government to hand over Julian. If it happens, no person who seeks asylum is safe. The Australian government must protect the right to asylum by protecting its citizen from the US attack on Ecuador.

Ben Wizner – director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project – added another warning:

Never in the history of this country has a publisher been prosecuted for presenting truthful information to the public. Any prosecution of WikiLeaks for publishing government secrets would set a dangerous precedent that the Trump administration would surely use to target other news organizations.

In the coming days and weeks, it will be interesting to see how the mainstream media outlets react if the above events take their course; particularly given that the same media directly benefited from WikiLeaks‘s publishing endeavours.

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Featured image via Serg Hoholok/Flickr Creative Commons

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