Embattled WikiLeaks frontman Julian Assange hopped out onto a balcony at London’s Ecuadorian embassy Sunday the building, surrounded by the very British police looking to arrest him and ultimately extradite the famed whistle-blower to Sweden and delivered a speech that called for, among other things, the United States to, “renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks.”
However, Assange didn’t use his time on the balcony to address the very reasons why British police seek to pull him in namely, that Swedish authorities still want to question him regarding allegations of sex crimes, issues that have shadowed Assange since 2010.
“As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies. We must use this movement to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America,” Assange said.
“Will it return and reaffirm the values it was founded on or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world, in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark,” he added.
British officials insist that Assange will be arrested should he leave the Ecuadorian assembly as, by law, the country is obligated to fill an arrest warrant previously issued for Assange in 2010. Assange has since lost his appeals to challenge his extradition and ultimately elected to apply for political asylum with Ecuador.
While it’s unclear as to when Assange officially moved into the Ecuadorian embassy, foreign minister Ricardo Patino made the official announcement regarding Assange’s residency on June 19. Ecuador officially granted Assange political asylum this past Thursday.
Throughout the process, Britain and Ecuador have exchanged testy communications back and forth while both are allegedly looking to settle the situation diplomatically, there has been talk that Britain might ultimately end up attempting to pry Assange out of the embassy in a not-quite-so diplomatic fashion.
“The move announced in the official British statement, if it happens, would be interpreted by Ecuador as an unfriendly, hostile and intolerable act, as well as an attack on our sovereignty, which would force us to respond in the strongest diplomatic way,” Patino said, as reported by Reuters.
However, it’s not so much that Assange fears travelling to Sweden and submitting to questioning by authorities there. Rather, he has said that his primary concern is that Sweden would itself ship Assange over to the United States, which could possibly prosecute the WikiLeaks founder on charges of espionage, computer fraud, conspiracy, or unlawful access to confidential information to name a few.
“If the US were to guarantee (it would) drop the grand jury investigation and any further investigation of WikiLeaks publishing activity, that would be an important guarantee … diplomatic commitments do have some weight,” said Assange, discussing the possibility of his travelling to Sweden in an interview this past June.
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