♠ Posted by Emmanuel in Anti-Globalization at 8/16/2012 03:08:00 PMBo Xilai one better).
The New York Times has a--how should I put this...piquant account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Living in a rabbit hole of a diplomatic premise just off Harrods (I could bring you there even while stone drunk), it was perhaps inevitable that Ecuador grant him asylum, so no surprises there.
However, there are a number of interesting twists, most obviously that the embassy is heavily watched by British security forces for signs that the Ecuadoreans may attempt to smuggle Assange out of the country. That said, there are several twists and turns that make this story particularly fascinating.
1. While I do appreciate that Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa styles himself as a leftist par excellence and a strong ally of Hugo Chavez who would like nothing more than to embarrass the United States, Correa is not exactly a stickler for media freedoms of the kind Assange champions. Persecution of opposition figures is no the rise, and Reporters Without Borders sees the country in decline with regard to media freedoms. I guess the message Correa is implicitly sending out is that certain media messages are more welcome than others when they mock less welcome characters like Americans.
2. Swedes are, in my experience, generally left-of-centre characters, so I am inclined to give them the benefit of a doubt that the case of Assange has merit. That is, they would not go to such lengths to try a character Swedes are generally sympathetic to if there was no reason for doing so. To be honest, Assange does not exactly strike me as a "normal" chap, either.
3. OTOH, that there are no guarantees that extradition to Sweden may result in a further extradition to the United States over WikiLeaks. At the least, this is the sticking point Ecuadorean officials identify:
The [Ecuadorean] minister said his government had taken the decision after the authorities in Britain, Sweden and the United States had refused to give guarantees that, if Mr. Assange were extradited to Sweden, he would not then be sent on to America to face other charges. The minister said his government had taken the decision after the authorities in Britain, Sweden and the United States had refused to give guarantees that, if Mr. Assange were extradited to Sweden, he would not then be sent on to America to face other charges...Bottom line: The United States has done much to make a martyr out of a dodgy character and a mockery of the quite frankly laughable notion of "Internet Freedom." Meanwhile, Ecuador is probably glad enough to get itself some cheap points from the leftist crowd for harbouring Assange for an extended period. Lastly, the United Kingdom probably wishes the guy never set foot in Blighty since it's a lose-lose situation
Those close to Mr. Assange have said one reason he does not want to be sent to Sweden is that he fears being charged with crimes in the United States for the release in 2010 of thousands of secret documents and diplomatic cables relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to American relations with other governments.An Ecuadorean official said late Wednesday that the British government had made it clear it would not allow Mr. Assange to leave the country to travel to Ecuador, so even with a grant of asylum or similar protection, he would probably remain stuck in the embassy.