By New Worker correspondent
WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, claiming political asylum less than a week after the Supreme Court rejected a renewed attempt to block his extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault during a visit to the country two years ago.
While fighting extradition Assange has lived under virtual house arrest in Norfolk on bail conditions. On Tuesday he jumped bail to make his dramatic bid for freedom under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration.
The internet crusader has always denied the Swedish allegations, which he believes are a put-up job by the CIA to obtain his eventual deportation to the United States to face charges of leaking secret US documents to the world’s media.
WikiLeaks was set up in 2006 by Assange and a number of other computer experts to “publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth”. It soon established a reputation for obtaining secret documents from sources deep within in the imperialist heartlands that deeply embarrassed the Americans and their allies and allegedly compromised their intelligence efforts.
Assange has no illusions of what awaits him if he crosses the Atlantic. Some reactionary American politicians and the rabid media jockeys who support them are openly calling for his execution. While this is unlikely – the man is an Australian citizen and cannot be charged with treason – he will certainly get harsh treatment and a long stretch in jail if the Americans ever get their hands on him.
The UN special rapporteur on torture has already formally accused the US government of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment towards Bradley Manning, the US soldier who was held in solitary confinement for almost a year on suspicion of being the WikiLeaks source.
Manning, who allegedly passed on a huge tranche of classified information to WikiLeaks when he served in the US army of occupation in Iraq, was arrested in May 2010 and charged with leaking secrets including the “collateral murder” video film of a US helicopter gunship mowing down civilians and two Reuters war correspondents.
The police have now surrounded the Ecuadorian embassy, near Harrod’s in London’s fashionable West End, ready to arrest him for breaching his bail conditions. He’s safe as long as he remains in the embassy. Whether he can leave it unscathed is another matter.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has confirmed that Assange had directly appealed to his president, Rafael Correa, for sanctuary. He said that Assange had argued that Australia “will not defend his minimum guarantees in front of any government or ignore the obligation to protect a politically persecuted citizen”.
It was, therefore, impossible for him to return to his homeland because it would not protect him from being extradited to "a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition".
Ecuadorian officials are now holding talks with a clearly embarrassed Cameron government while considering the asylum request. In the meantime the embassy says Assange will remain “under the protection of the Ecuadorean government”.