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January 16, 2018

The Assange standoff

Editorial

 
January 16, 2018

The world’s most wanted hacker has been hiding away in the Ecuador embassy in London for over five years. The standoff over the head of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has moved forward after Ecuador decided to grant him citizenship last month. Subsequently, the Latin American country asked for Assange to be given diplomatic status by the UK to allow him to finally leave the embassy. The request was – once again – rejected. Assange arrived at the Ecuador embassy in June 2012 a persecuted hero to many. WikiLeaks had just released a tranche of US State Department documents that showed the machinations of American interference in the political affairs of almost every country in the world. It was thought that could be a moment that could change the face of international relations; the assumption proved to be wrong, though. Assange then found him to be the subject of rape allegations in Sweden, serious charges that Assange has continued to claim were politically motivated. While many of Assange’s mostly left-leaning supporters found themselves struggling with how to support him, many did understand that the chances of Assange being extradited to the US to face a trial were real.

The ongoing standoff with the UK has revealed as much. There is no other wanted individual – who lives within plain sight – on whom over $11 million dollars spent in constant police presence in case he tries to escape. When the rape investigation was shut in May 2017 by Swedish investigations, there was hope that Assange could finally leave the UK. That hope was dissipated with the UK government insisting that he was still a wanted man for evading bail conditions. For the last six months, the UK government has kept the same position, despite Ecuador offering a way out by offering Assange diplomatic status as an Ecuadorian citizen. On its part, Ecuador itself has found itself frustrated with the standoff, with the new Ecuadorian leadership less enamoured with the WikiLeaks head, who has continued to make headlines with new leaks. With WikiLeaks now declared an official media organisation within the UK, the UK government has enough space for being able to back out of the desire to arrest Assange. It must be noted that the UN has declared this to be involuntary detention. Why the UK government is insisting that Assange must face arrest for violating bail conditions is seen by many activists as a disturbing sign. There are fears are that the US has issued a secret extradition order which the UK government wishes to comply with. Holed up in the Ecuador embassy, Assange is a VIP guest who deserves to have his freedom returned and to be able to continue his work.

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