Last Thursday, June 27, London Metropolitan Police served WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with an order to present himself at Belgravia police station on Friday, June 28. Instead, he told the BBC that he would stay at the Ecuadorean Embassy since he fears the US has secret plans to extradite him.
He now has added that agreeing to that police request would be breaking his bail terms as well, according to the Guardian. Could it be on this Independence Day in the US, respect for freedom of speech and the press and some sort of Democracy is still alive somewhere?
Assange said he had been advised that he was within his legal rights to ignore an extradition notice that was presented to him at the Ecuadorean Embassy last Thursday. He said this during a telephone interview on BBC2’s Newsnight, when asked if he intended to give himself up. “Our advice is that asylum law both domestically and internationally in the UK takes precedence to extradition law, so the answer is almost certainly not,” he said.
Assange had been asked to present himself to police last Friday to begin the process of extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and indecency. His refusal means that he will continue to take refuge in the embassy while the Ecuadorean government decides whether to accept his request for asylum. Even if they do so, Assange is likely to face a long stay at the embassy, as he will be unable to leave without being arrested.
Assange said he had evidence that the US has secret plans to force him to face trial in America for leaking hundreds of thousands of “secret” US documents via the WikiLeaks website.
Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 24-year-old Crescent, Oklahoma native, has been charged with aiding the enemy by passing the secret files to WikiLeaks and is awaiting trial, after spending over two years in military prison and enduring torture.
Assange said, “In the US, since at least the beginning of 2011, a US grand jury has been empanelled in Washington. It has been pulling in witnesses, forced testimony from those witnesses, subpoenaed records from Google, from Twitter.” He submitted recordings to the BBC of American politicians and talk show hosts calling for his death as evidence of the prejudice against him.
When asked if he had anything to say to the women who have accused him of rape and indecency, he replied: “I am simply not charged. That’s all. That’s all that is important in this matter. What has been said to date is sufficient.”
In fact, originally both women agreed to spend the night with him but later went to the police to complain about his behavior. But Assange left Sweden before he could be questioned by police. Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy after he lost his appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court last month, which upheld Sweden’s right to extradite himto answer the accusations made by two women he met while on a trip to Sweden.
Assange’s supporters see the extradition as a thin cover for a second extradition to the US to face charges over the release of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks, which could bring him life imprisonment or even a death sentence. A succession of British courts has found that Sweden has followed the correct procedure in issuing a European arrest warrant for Assange and ruled that Britain must comply with it. Of course, both Sweden and Britain are under pressure from the US to deliver Assange, who keeps embarrassing the US with the release of secrets that catch the government with its political pants down.
Before the Newsnight interview, a police spokesman said, “The Metropolitan police have this morning, Thursday 28 June, served a surrender notice upon a 40-year-old man that requires him to attend a police station at a date and time of our choosing. This is standard practice in extradition cases and is the first step in the removal process.” It’s interesting the 40-year old man is not mentioned by name, as he if were a non-person.
The police spokesman said Assange remained in breach of his bail conditions. “Failing to surrender would be a further breach of conditions and he is liable to arrest.” Assange was been ordered to present himself at Belgravia police station at 11.30am on Friday. He did not show.
Last week, a letter signed by leading US figures in support of Assange’s application for political asylum in Ecuador was delivered to the embassy. Among its signatories were film-makers Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, actor Danny Glover, authors Naomi Wolf and Noam Chomsky, comedian Bill Maher, and Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst turned whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
Robert Naiman, policy director at the Just Foreign Policy campaign group, delivered the letter to the embassy on June 25, along with a petition signed by more than 4,000 Americans urging President Rafael Correa to approve Assange’s request for asylum.
The letter, which has been posted online, states that its signatories believe Assange has good reason to fear extradition from the UK to Sweden “as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States“. Adding that the US government “has made clear its hostility to WikiLeaks,” it says Assange could face the death penalty in the US if he was charged and found guilty under the Espionage Act.
“We also call on you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum because the ‘crime’ that he has committed is that of practicing journalism,” says the letter to Correa.
“Because this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public’s right to know important truths about US foreign policy, and because the threat to his health and wellbeing is serious, we urge you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum.”
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.