Julian Assange row: OAS gives Ecuador partial support
posted by Keito
2012-08-25 00:20:53'Foreign ministers from the American continent have passed a motion backing the "inviolability of diplomatic missions" amid the row between the UK and Ecuador over Julian Assange.
The Wikileaks founder is in Ecuador's London embassy fighting extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims.
Ecuador called for the Organisation of American States vote saying the UK had threatened to storm the embassy.
But the resolution was reworded after the UK insisted it had made no threat.
The BBC's Kim Ghattas said the resolution expressed solidarity with Ecuador but, despite a strong plea from Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, there was no reference to any threat against his country's embassy in London.
The United States withdrew its opposition to the resolution after the text was amended.
Australian Mr Assange, 41 - whose Wikileaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables embarrassing countries including the US - has been fighting extradition to Sweden saying he fears he will then be passed on to authorities in US.
In May the UK Supreme Court dismissed Mr Assange's bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period - during which he entered Ecuador's embassy - before extradition proceedings could start.
The South American announced it had granted Mr Assange asylum on 16 August saying his human rights could be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over allegations that he sexually assaulted two ex-Wikileaks volunteers in Stockholm in 2010.
But the UK has said it will not allow him safe passage out of the country and has said it will follow its obligations, under the Extradition Act, to arrest Mr Assange if he leaves the embassy.
The meeting of the OAS, which represents 35 states in the Caribbean and North and South America, was called by Ecuador after it received a letter from the UK last week.
Ecuador said the letter, which drew attention to the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 which would potentially allow the UK to lift the embassy's diplomatic status to allow police to enter the building, was a "threat".
The Foreign Office later said the letter had been sent to clarify "all aspects of British law that Ecuador should be aware of".
During the meeting in Washington DC, Mr Patino had called on the UK to withdraw its threat and guarantee it would not storm the diplomatic mission.
The UK, which has observer status at the OAS, insisted no threat was ever made and the UK remained committed to honouring international law.
The representative of the Dominican Republic had questioned why the meeting was called since the row over Mr Assange was not going to be solved there, especially not with any grandstanding by Ecuador.
Earlier this week Ecuador's President Rafael Correa told the BBC the diplomatic row over Mr Assange "could be ended tomorrow" if Britain gave him safe passage to Ecuador.
But Mr Correa said without that, the situation could go on for years.
The US is carrying out an investigation into Wikileaks, which has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables, embarrassing several governments and international businesses.
In 2010, two female ex-Wikileaks volunteers accused Mr Assange of committing sexual offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture.
He claims the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated. He says he fears onward extradition to the US if extradited to Sweden because of his website's publication of confidential documents.'
‘Operation Free Assange’: Anonymous take down UK’s Justice Ministry’s website
posted by Keito
2012-08-21 12:16:09'The website for the UK Ministry of Justice is under attack after hacktivists engaged a mission to try and take down justice.gov.uk in retaliation for Britain’s handling of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Several Twitter accounts associated with the loose-knit Anonymous collective have acknowledged that the UK Ministry of Justice’s website is being targeted with a distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attack. The assault on the website is being carried out under a campaign branded #OpFreeAssange.
“#OpFreeAssange: TANGO DOWN! http://www.justice.gov.uk/ [500 Internal Server Error] [#Anonymous #WikiLeaks],” reads one tweet sent from the @Anon_Central Twitter account.
The hackers also claim to have taken down the website of another British government department, the Department of Work and Pensions. “Gov. of UK Expect Us!” read a tweet by Anonymous.
Assange, the founder and editor of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has been ordered by Swedish authorities to be extradited from the UK where he had been under house arrest. Two women from Sweden have accused Assange of sex crimes, although he has yet to be charged.
In fear of being sent to Sweden and then extradited to the US to be tried for his role with WikiLeaks, Assange applied for political asylum in Ecuador, which the Latin American country finally granted him last week after two months of waiting. Regardless, British authorities have refused to give Assange safe passage out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London so that he may travel overseas.
Before Ecuador President Rafael Correa approved the asylum bid, British authorities threatened to storm the embassy last week, prompting supporters of Assange and WikiLeaks to surround the building overnight in hopes of deterring any attempt by the UK to follow through with the extradition.
“If the UK did not throw away the Vienna conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching. And the world was watching because you were watching,” Assange told his supporters during his Sunday afternoon speech from London.
“So, the next time somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend those rights that we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark before the Embassy of Ecuador.”
In addition to lambasting the British for coming close to violating international law, Assange asked for US President Barack Obama to “do the right thing” and end his war on whistleblowing, saluting accused WikiLeaks contributor Private First Class Bradley Manning as a hero whose release from prison must be made immediately.'
Transcript: Julian Assange Speech @ Ecuador Embassy 2012-08-19
posted by Keito
2012-08-19 18:30:33"I am here because I cannot be closer to you.
Thank you for being here.
Thanks you for your resolve and your generosity of spirit.
On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy and the police descended on the building, you came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the world's eyes with you.
Inside the embassy after dark I could hear teams of police swarming up into the building through the internal fire escape. But I knew that there would be witnesses.
And that is because of you.
If the UK did not throw away the Vienna Convention the other night that is because the world was watching.
And the world was watching because you were watching.
The next time somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend those rights we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark before the Embassy Of Ecuador, and how in the morning the sun came up on a different world and a courageous Latin American nation took a stand for justice.
And so to those brave people I thank President Correa for the courage he has shown in considering and granting me political asylum.
And so I thank the government and the Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino who have upheld the Ecuadorian constitution and its notion of universal rights in their consideration of my case.
And to the Ecuadorian people for supporting and defending this constitution. And I have a debt of gratitude to the staff of this embassy whose families live in London and who have shown me hospitality and kindness despite the threats that they received.
This Friday there will be an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of Latin America in Washington DC to address this situation. And so I am grateful to the people and governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela and to all of the other Latin American countries who have come to defend the right to asylum.
To the people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia who have supported me in strength even when their governments have not and to those wiser heads in government who are still fighting for justice your day will come.
To the staff, supporters and sources of Wikileaks whose courage and commitment and loyalty has seen no equal.
To my family and to my children who have been denied their father forgive me we will be reunited soon.
As Wikileaks stands under threat so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America.
Will it return to 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?
I say that it must turn back.
I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch-hunt against Wikileaks.
The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation.
The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters.
The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful.
There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organisation be it Wikileaks or the New York Times.
The US administration's war on whistleblowers must end.
Thomas Drake and William Binney and John Kiriakou and the other heroic US whistleblowers must - they must - be pardoned and compensated for the hardships they have endured as servants of the public record.
And the Army Private who remains in a military prison in Fort Levenworth Kansas who was found by the UN to have endured most torturous detention in Quantico Virginia and who has yet after two years in the prison to see a trial must be released.
And if Bradley Manning really did as he is accused he is a hero an example to us all and one of the world's foremost political prisoners.
Bradley Manning must be released.
On Wednesday Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial. The legal maximum is 120 days.
On Thursday my friend Nabeel Rajah was sentenced to three years for a tweet. On Friday a Russian band were sentenced to two years in jail for a political performance.
There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response."
VIDEO: Assange Public Statement from Ecuadorian Embassy 2012-08-19
posted by Keito
Daniel Ellsberg: I Congratulate Ecuador for Standing Up to British Empire to Protect Julian Assange
posted by Keito
2012-08-19 14:55:09'Daniel Ellsberg, the most famous whistleblower in the United States, praises Ecuador for granting political asylum to Julian Assange to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crime accusations. "I congratulate Ecuador, of course, for standing up to the British Empire here, for insisting that they are not a British colony, and acting as a sovereign state ought to act," says Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the secret history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy, saying Britain is "under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden." Ellsberg adds: "[Assange] has every reason to be wary that the real intent here is to whisk him away to America, where it really hasn’t been made as clear what might be waiting for him.'
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For more on Julian Assange, we’re joined by Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the country’s most famous whistleblower. He leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. He joins us from Berkeley.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Dan Ellsberg, your response to the latest developments of the decision of Ecuador to grant asylum?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, I congratulate Ecuador, of course, for standing up to the British Empire here, for insisting that they are not a British colony, and acting as a sovereign state ought to act. And I think they’ve done the right thing. I appreciate what they’ve done.
AMY GOODMAN: And the British government first threatening to raid the Ecuadorean embassy in London, also saying they would arrest Julian Assange if he attempted to leave to go to Ecuador, but also saying they’d actually raid the embassy?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: It’s an outrageous proposal, which actually undermines the security of every diplomat in the world, in this country right now. I would say it has a chilling effect right now, the very fact that that possibility has been raised. I’m old enough to remember the occasion that gave rise to that, actually. I remember when a Libyan official shot from the Libyan embassy in London and killed a British female officer—Vivian [Yvonne Joyce Fletcher], I think her name was—in 1984. The result of that was that they removed diplomatic recognition from Libya altogether, sent everybody home. They didn’t raid the embassy on that occasion, but that led three years later to a law that permitted them, under extraordinary circumstances, to do that again. They obviously don’t have anyone here who’s been shooting from the Ecuadorean embassy at anyone. He’s merely been telling the truth, there as in London earlier. He should be congratulated for that, not threatened.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dan Ellsberg, again, the extraordinary efforts that are being taken here by the British government—and, obviously, the Swedish government—supposedly just to question him on allegations of a sexual attack, not even actual charges.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, everything that we’ve seen supports the position of his defense team, that this is not about sexual charges in Sweden, essentially, that that’s a cover story—whatever substance there may be to that story. But the procedures that have been followed here are extraordinary: a red notice here, very unusually given, never under these circumstances, to arrest him and these heavy efforts to extradite him, after he had offered either to be questioned by the prosecutor herself or by some representative of her in the Swedish embassy or the British embassy or by British police in London, where he was, something that, by the way, is routinely done all the time, and the expense is paid for that, if necessary—all of that being refused. Why? In a situation where this man is charged with criminal charges by no country—not by Sweden, not by Britain, not by the United States, although there may in fact be a secret indictment already waiting for him in the United States, being denied or lied about right now by my country. But no charges have actually been made public. So, here, all this emphasis just to get him charged—just to get him questioned, rather, when he’s offered himself for questioning, even right now in the Ecuadorean embassy. The state of Ecuador has actually officially proposed that that take place in the Ecuadorean embassy or elsewhere and in London. And that has been refused. All of this supports the idea that this is merely a way of getting him to Sweden, which apparently would be easier to extradite him from to the United States than Britain. If Britain were totally open to extraditing him, it would have happened by now. Two years have passed. But he’s an Australian citizen, a member of the Commonwealth, and the criteria for extraditing somebody who’s been telling the truth and is wanted for what can only be a political crime in another country are apparently more stringent here than they might be in Sweden.
So I think that—in fact, I join his lawyers, Michael Ratner and others, in saying that he has every reason to be wary that the real intent here is to whisk him away to America, where it really hasn’t been made as clear what might be waiting for him as I think one can conjecture. The new National Defense Authorization Act—and I’m a plaintiff in a suit to call that act unconstitutional, in terms of its effect on me and on others, a suit that has been successful so far at the district court level and has led to that act being called unconstitutional. But on its face, that act could be used against Julian Assange or Bradley Manning, if he weren’t already in military custody. Julian Assange, although a civilian, and not an American civilian at that, would seem to me, a layman, to be clearly subject to the National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA, putting in military detention for suspicion of giving aid to an enemy, which he’s certainly been accused of by high American officials. I don’t see why he couldn’t be put in indefinite contention, without even the charges that I faced 40 years ago for doing the exact same things that he did.
AMY GOODMAN: The record of President Obama on whistleblowers: six whistleblowers charged under the Obama administration, more than in all—under the administrations of all past presidents combined, Dan Ellsberg?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Twice as many. Twice as many as all past presidents. There was a total of three under past presidents, one each. I was the first ever charged with those charges. Obama has brought six such charges. And apparently his grand jury in Virginia is seeking at least a seventh, and perhaps more, against Assange and others. Twice as many as all previous.
AMY GOODMAN: You were charged? You were indicted for having secret documents and giving them away?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: For possessing them and for possessing them without authorization. There was a second grand jury going on that would have gotten me in a second trial for distribution, which of course I was also involved in. I didn’t contest any of the facts. And would—that would probably, for the first time, have brought in newspaper people, like Neil Sheehan and Hendrick Smith. That was quashed after government criminality led to the ending of my trial, and so they dropped the other grand jury. As a result, we have no prior precedent of a newspaper person being tried under that charge. I was a former official. Julian Assange would be the first, again, charged. No newspaper person has been so charged.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dan Ellsberg, the impact already of this hounding of Assange by the Swedish, and clearly with the United States government in the wings, behind the scenes, orchestrating a lot of this—the impact on WikiLeaks and on other whistleblowers? The message that’s being sent, that if you dare to go against the empire, you will be hounded and gone after?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: That’s hardly an amazing message. It was, of course, to be expected. There was reason to think that an international organization with no national roots here, and using the internet, would escape that kind of chilling effect. And they found the empire here is more resourceful and creative and less mindful of its own constitution and laws and traditions than one might have hoped. But, anyway, it’s hardly surprising that when you twist the lion’s tail, the lion may get very angry. Their ability to shut off the funding by intimidating, without even invoking the law, places like PayPal and Amazon and others from giving any money to or serving as distribution channels is very dismaying. It’s a sign, and not unique, of the way in which our fundamental rights, our Bill of Rights, our constitutional freedoms, have been abridged by the last 10 years and more. And President Obama is, unhappily, following in that tradition, as, I must say, I predicted, unhappily, when I urged people to vote for him four years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally—
DANIEL ELLSBERG: And I’ll predict people—I’ll predict it unhappily when I vote for people—when I urge people in Florida and swing states to vote for him next time, not in the expectation that he will act like a president rather than a king. We have currently now, and have had for some years, the choice between two candidates for monarchy four years apart.
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange’s statement after the Ecuadorean government granted him political asylum, he said, "I’m grateful to the Ecuadorean people, President Rafael Correa and his government. It was not Britain or my home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American nation. While today is a historic victory, our struggles have just begun. The unprecedented U.S. investigation against WikiLeaks must be stopped."
And Assange went on to say, "While today much of the focus will be on the decision of the Ecuadorean government, it is just as important that we remember Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for over 800 days. The task of protecting WikiLeaks, its staff, its supporters and its alleged sources continue." That from Julian Assange’s statement yesterday. Final comment, Dan Ellsberg?
DANIEL ELLSBERG: Absolutely. There’s no reason to believe that he would get what in past years, including my time when I was prosecuted, would pass for a fair trial or for fair treatment in this country. I’m sorry to say that there’s been something like a coup some 10 years ago, an executive coup against our Constitution and against the separation of government. It’s outrageous that Bradley Manning’s trial has again been postponed by the action of the government 'til next spring. He will have spent—he's already spent more than 800 days in confinement, 10 months of it and more in conditions that Amnesty International called torture. The idea that President Obama ended torture is simply not true. He didn’t end it even in this country, in terms of isolated commitment, incommunicado, basically, and conditions of nudity, in some cases, intended to humiliate him—all intended to press him to cop a plea and reduce his sentence from the life sentence they’re asking to a much lower sentence, if he will only implicate Julian Assange in ways that would allow them to bring a trial without great embarrassment.
Now, let me enlarge on that for a moment. They don’t have to extradite anyone to bring someone under these charges under the WikiLeaks disclosures. Everything Julian Assange could possibly be charged with under our law was committed as an act by Bill Keller, the president—sorry, the managing editor of—the executive editor of the New York Times. I don’t mean the New York Times should be indicted or that Keller should be indicted. That would be an outrage, just as it is an outrage to think of indicting Julian Assange for exactly the same thing. But meanwhile, Bradley Manning is facing charges that he aided the enemy, absurd charges that amount virtually to treason. And many people have even called for execution of either of them. Well, obviously, the same charges then could lead to Julian Assange being tried under the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, which has just been found unconstitutional by a courageous and right-thinking judge in the first—in the district of Manhattan—
AMY GOODMAN: Dan Ellsberg, we want to thank—
DANIEL ELLSBERG: —right now, which has been—found that act unconstitutional. That’s the act under which I was tried. I wish I had had the chance to go for an injunction under that charge. She’s obviously right.
AMY GOODMAN: Dan Ellsberg, thanks so much for being with us, perhaps the country’s most famous whistleblower. He leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, the secret history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, joining us from University of California, Berkeley.