Sept. 3, 2013
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange on Monday marked 1,000 days of confinement, mostly spent under house arrest.
Since June 2012, Assange has been holed up in a room five meters wide, in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, where he is reportedly working 17 hours a day.
“We see the escalating war against those who commit the act of journalism. This is escalating from month to month,” WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT. “The argument is this: that Bradley Manning was the first whistleblower in US history; he was prosecuted and found guilty on the basis of espionage. Journalists will come next. It could possibly be WikiLeaks and all the media organizations. It’s a real possibility and we know about the ongoing investigation in the US into WikiLeaks which has been now going on for three years and probably cost quite a sum of money. So it is a very worrying situation.”
Assange has said he is sure that the minute he sets foot outside the embassy, he would be arrested and handed over to Sweden, where he is wanted on sexual assault charges. He believes he would then be extradited to the US, where he would most likely face trial and a possible death sentence for releasing thousands of classified US diplomatic documents, including about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We know there is an ongoing investigation in the US and we know I am a target of a Federal Grand Jury,” Assange told a group of reporters in June. “There is a 99.97 per cent chance that I will be indicted. So if the Swedish government drops their request tomorrow, I still cannot leave the embassy.”
Since November 2010, Assange has been subject to a European-wide arrest warrant in response to a Swedish police request for questioning in relation to a sexual misconduct investigation. Assange has denied any wrongdoing and called the charges politically motivated.
The whistleblower fled to the UK where he was taken into custody after voluntarily attending a police station. After spending 10 days in Wandsworth prison, Assange was freed on bail with a residence requirement at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, England.
In February 2011, a court ruled to extradite the whistleblower to Sweden, with Assange’s lawyers appealing against the verdict to various British judicial authorities.
While remaining on house arrest in 2012, Assange hosted a political talk show, The World Tomorrow, which was broadcast on RT.
After the British Supreme Court upheld the extradition warrant, the WikiLeaks founder sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
The move sparked a standoff between Ecuador and the UK authorities, who warned that they could raid the embassy and arrest Assange if he wasn’t handed over.
The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister replied this would be a “flagrant violation” of international law. But Britain has pledged to do everything in its power to block Assange’s passage to Ecuador, despite him being granted political asylum by the Latin American country in August 2012.
In writing to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa over a year ago, Assange explained he was being persecuted and could not return to his native Australia for fear he could be extradited to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition.” Ecuador concluded his fears were “legitimate.”
Assange claims the same imperilment is why he has been avoiding the return to Sweden for questioning. He has previously expressed his willingness to answer questions from Swedish investigators on condition that he receives strong guarantees that he won’t be extradited to the United States. No guarantees have ever been given, however.
“While I remain hopeful that a diplomatic solution can be reached, or that the Swedish and US authorities will cease their pursuit of me, it remains the case that it is highly unlikely that Sweden or the UK will ever publicly say no to the US in this matter,” Assange told the journalists in June.
On July 25, Assange declared he was running in the elections for the Australian Senate and launched the Australian WikiLeaks Party.
The party aims to serve as an independent watchdog, keeping the Australian government accountable to the public, he said. “My plans are to essentially parachute in a crack troop of investigative journalists into the Senate and to do what we have done with WikiLeaks, in holding banks and government and intelligence agencies to account,” Assange said.
Should the WikiLeaks Party be successful in the polls, Assange would have to take his seat within one year of being elected, according to Australian law. However, the UK government has stated that in accordance with the European arrest warrant issued against Assange, he would be detained once he leaves the Ecuadorean Embassy.
However, it is not clear whether the US and the UK would drop their plans to detain Assange if he wins an Australian Senate seat, granting him protection by the country’s parliamentary privilege rules. -RT