Thursday, August 23, 2012

"We Are Not a Colony": Ecuador Grants Political Asylum to Assange

Havana. August 23, 2012

Ecuador grants political asylum to Assange
"We are not a colony"

Angie Todd
Granma International

THE Ecuadorian government’s honorable decision to grant political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on August 15 has provoked a major controversy.

The United States must renounce its witch-hunts against Wikileaks.

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London two months ago after losing his legal battle in the UK to avoid extradition to Sweden for alleged sexual offenses, and his possible subsequent extradition to the United States, where he would face charges of disclosing military and diplomatic state secrets.

Wikileaks’ initial disclosures related the grim reality of the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. On August 12, the attorney for soldier Bradley Manning, Assange’s alleged informant on U.S. military actions in Iraq, exposed the U.S. army’s violation of his client’s rights. Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010, and faces 22 charges of communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy, a capital offense. He has spent a large part of his imprisonment in solitary confinement, subjected to degrading treatment, and is currently confined for 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 1.8 x 2.4 meters.

Manning allegedly provided Wikileaks with classified footage taken from a cockpit gunsight during a U.S. army helicopter attack in Baghdad.

In the first strike, two helicopters fired on approximately 10 men, most of whom were unarmed, including two Reuters war correspondents, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. Eight of them died in the attack, including Noor-Eldeen, and Chmagh was wounded.

The second airstrike was directed at Chmagh and two other unarmed men as they attempted to help Chmagh into their van. Two children inside the van were wounded, a further three individuals were killed, including Chmagh and the children's father.

Bradley Manning was arraigned in February 2012 and did not enter a plea; his trial is scheduled to begin in September.

These leaks prompted the attempted blocking of the Wikileaks site by U.S. authorities, but releases continued. Many of them exposed U.S. State Department instructions to its embassy chiefs in a number of Latin American nations working toward regional unity, directed at overt interference in their sovereign affairs and political processes.


Over the last two months, Ecuadorian diplomacy has worked intensively and unsuccessfully to obtain from UK and Swedish authorities guarantees that Assange’s return to Sweden would not result in his subsequent extradition to the United States to face espionage charges.

On August 14, anticipating a decision by Ecuador, UK authorities threatened to invade its London embassy and "duly" fulfill their mission to extradite Assange to Sweden. Clearly, such an act of aggression would violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity.

In the wake of Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño’s announcement of the decision to grant political asylum to Assange, endorsed by the Ecuadorian Parliament, British Foreign Minister William Hague issued further threats against the integrity of the country’s embassy. "The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum as such, but even for those countries that do recognize it, the option should not be used for escaping regular process of the court." He went on to imply that such "undue" use of the mission could result in the removal of its status.

Patiño, emphasizing that Ecuador is not a colony, affirmed that the UK's reaction amounted to a strong threat: "It is basically saying: We are going to beat you savagely if you don't behave … but if you behave, we may not beat you savagely."

Beyond whether or not the Wikileaks founder merits legal punishment, whether or not he was set up by the CIA, Assange’s persecution is a political one, prompted by his exposé of dirty military and diplomatic dealings on the part of the United States.

Speaking from the balcony of the embassy, Assange called on President Barack Obama to end the witch hunt against him and release the U.S. soldier Bradley Manning.

Today’s corporate media is deployed in a huge exercise to present a manipulated, distorted or false vision of global events in order to preserve the status quo of imperial powers, powers which have promoted and condoned the murder of journalists who have dared to expose these lies. The essential issue here is the right of the peoples to receive truthful information.

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