Letters & Opinion

Wikileaks Founder arrested and awarded, now facing extradition to US Punishment for Publishing?

The fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is way up in the air, as the Australian ponders his future in a London jail awaiting what he will definitely consider a Kangaroo Trial in America.

Assange was arrested after Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno withdrew his diplomatic protection by suspending his Ecuadorean citizenship to allow British police to arrest him.

He’s now in solitary confinement in a London prison awaiting two court hearings: one (next month) for skipping bail on a years-old sex-related charge in Sweden and an extradition hearing based on a recent request filed by the US.

Assange became popular worldwide after Wikileaks exposed millions of pages revealing hundreds of cases documenting thousands of incidents, actions and decisions involving US military intervention, bloody behaviour of US troops abroad and the many lies told by top US officials to cover-up such dirty deeds.

He sacrificed his life to access and share the dark secrets of the dirty underworld, in the process risking being shot, poisoned, kidnapped or otherwise forcibly captured and handed to those in different parts of the world wanting to see him dead.

Like Edward Snowden (the American who sought asylum in Russia after being put at the top of the US Most Wanted list of so-called ‘whistleblowers’) and Mark Greenwald (The Guardian reporter who fled to Brazil after being identified as Snowden’s UK contact), Assange sought and got refuge in the UK Ecuador Embassy under then-President Rafael Correa.

The Wikileaks Founder spent seven years in solitary diplomatic confinement, hardly ever seeing London skies by day or night, originally allowed the company of his pet cat, access to his computer and open to visits – until Moreno replaced Correa in a classic case of a palace coup executed by a trusted loyalist.

Correa fled to Europe after Moreno, his chosen successor, virtually kidnapped the ruling ‘Citizens Revolution’ party following its 2017 election victory and even jailed his newly-elected Vice President.

Moreno, as Correa’s Vice President, was part of the decision to grant citizenship to Assange to protect him from possible extradition to the USA, where he’d earned the wrath of Republicans for exposing the dirtiest of US military secrets, but especially of Democrats for exposing the Clinton e-mail fiasco during the 2016 US presidential race.

Interestingly, President Barack Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, who, as Corporal Bradley Manning, had collaborated with Assange to leak the biggest chunk of US classified military secrets ever.

No such presidential pardon for Assange, though, who the US has been pursuing for punishment for Wikileaks’ exposures, which so damaged the Democrats that candidate Donald Trump publicly confessed on the campaign trail: ‘I just love Wikileaks!’

But Trump’s love obviously leaked into thin air after he took the presidency – and especially after Moreno took full charge in Ecuador.

Reversing all major decisions he took alongside Correa to take Ecuador to the left of the regional and international political spectrum, Moreno opted to realign the economy to the US and lined-up Ecuador for an IMF loan — in the process also tightening the squeeze on the caged Assange.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Wikileaks’ recent exposure of the ‘INA Papers’, a series of documents implicating Moreno and his family in an alleged ring of corruption involving an offshore company run by close relatives.

Moreno’s swift response was to publicly accuse Assange of violating the conditions of his asylum by engaging in online activities amounting to ‘interference in the internal affairs of countries’, on the basis of which he decided to cut Assange loose.

Wikileaks had disclosed – a week ahead of Assange’s eviction – that Washington and Quito had cut a deal with London to extradite him to the US.

The British Government said it wouldn’t extradite him if he would face a death penalty, to which the US responded by making the request on the basis of a charge of ‘conspiring to hack a US government computer’.

However, with the previously presidentially-pardoned Chelsea Manning still languishing in solitary confinement in a US prison (yet again) under Trump and refusing to conspire with the US Justice Department to make a solid ‘national security threat’ case against Assange, most US media commentators and legal minds say there’s nothing to prevent the US adding more serious charges against the Wikileaks founder once he lands on American soil.

The world is watching and people are reacting everywhere – from Ecuadoreans taking to the streets on Tuesday to condemn President Moreno as ‘a sellout’, to protests outside Ecuador embassies in London, Paris and other European capitals, as well as some US cities.

Assange was also awarded on Tuesday by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for his sacrifices in defense of press freedom.

Interestingly, while Assange has been both arrested and awarded, none of the international mainstream media houses that made good use of Wikileaks material over the years have yet come to his defense.

Liberal media, on the other hand, are wary of the potential consequences, while growing increasingly weary of trying to show those who don’t yet or simply refuse to see or accept that if the US gets away with jailing Assange, it can have serious implications for how journalists everywhere else seek information — and protect sources.

Voices of protest and concern are growing louder across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America that Assange could very well eventually die in prison if and when he is extradited to the US, where at least one legislator is on record as having publicly invited anyone to ‘Just shoot the sonofabitch!’

But where is the Caribbean’s voice?

Do CARICOM governments support such naked transnational transgressions in pursuit of punishment for publication of information deemed perilous by doers of bad in the name of good?

Do Caribbean media houses yet see that information gathering is now being outlawed and journalism is being criminalized by the world’s most powerful nation?

Do Caribbean journalists realize that if and when the USA sets that standard, it will just be a matter of time before other governments feel it is okay to do likewise?

This is more than just about Julian Assange, as all aspects of press freedom are threatened by this clear move to make him an example to others the world over – including the Caribbean — of just what can happen to journalists who refuse to dance with Uncle Sam, who, the world is still expected to believe, always gets what he wants!

 The fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is way up in the air, as the Australian ponders his future in a London jail awaiting what he will definitely consider a Kangaroo Trial in America.

Assange was arrested after Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno withdrew his diplomatic protection by suspending his Ecuadorean citizenship to allow British police to arrest him.

He’s now in solitary confinement in a London prison awaiting two court hearings: one (next month) for skipping bail on a years-old sex-related charge in Sweden and an extradition hearing based on a recent request filed by the US.

Assange became popular worldwide after Wikileaks exposed millions of pages revealing hundreds of cases documenting thousands of incidents, actions and decisions involving US military intervention, bloody behaviour of US troops abroad and the many lies told by top US officials to cover-up such dirty deeds.

He sacrificed his life to access and share the dark secrets of the dirty underworld, in the process risking being shot, poisoned, kidnapped or otherwise forcibly captured and handed to those in different parts of the world wanting to see him dead.

Like Edward Snowden (the American who sought asylum in Russia after being put at the top of the US Most Wanted list of so-called ‘whistleblowers’) and Mark Greenwald (The Guardian reporter who fled to Brazil after being identified as Snowden’s UK contact), Assange sought and got refuge in the UK Ecuador Embassy under then President Rafael Correa.

The Wikileaks Founder spent seven years in solitary diplomatic confinement, hardly ever seeing London skies by day or night, originally allowed the company of his pet cat, access to his computer and open to visits – until Moreno replaced Correa in a classic case of a palace coup executed by a trusted loyalist.

Correa fled to Europe after Moreno, his chosen successor, virtually kidnapped the ruling ‘Citizens Revolution’ party following its 2017 election victory and even jailed his newly-elected Vice President.

Moreno, as Correa’s Vice President, was part of the decision to grant citizenship to Assange to protect him from possible extradition to the USA, where he’d earned the wrath of Republicans for exposing the dirtiest of US military secrets, but especially of Democrats for exposing the Clinton e-mail fiasco during the 2016 US presidential race.

Interestingly, President Barack Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning, who, as Corporal Bradley Manning, had collaborated with Assange to leak the biggest chunk of US classified military secrets ever.

No such presidential pardon for Assange, though, who the US has been pursuing for punishment for Wikileaks’ exposures, which so damaged the Democrats that candidate Donald Trump publicly confessed on the campaign trail: ‘I just love Wikileaks!’

But Trump’s love obviously leaked into thin air after he took the presidency – and especially after Moreno took full charge in Ecuador.

Reversing all major decisions he took alongside Correa to take Ecuador to the left of the regional and international political spectrum, Moreno opted to realign the economy to the US and lined-up Ecuador for an IMF loan — in the process also tightening the squeeze on the caged Assange.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Wikileaks’ recent exposure of the ‘INA Papers’, a series of documents implicating Moreno and his family in an alleged ring of corruption involving an offshore company run by close relatives.

Moreno’s swift response was to publicly accuse Assange of violating the conditions of his asylum by engaging in online activities amounting to ‘interference in the internal affairs of countries’, on the basis of which he decided to cut Assange loose.

Wikileaks had disclosed – a week ahead of Assange’s eviction – that Washington and Quito had cut a deal with London to extradite him to the US.

The British Government said it wouldn’t extradite him if he would face a death penalty, to which the US responded by making the request on the basis of a charge of ‘conspiring to hack a US government computer’.

However, with the previously presidentially-pardoned Chelsea Manning still languishing in solitary confinement in a US prison (yet again) under Trump and refusing to conspire with the US Justice Department to make a solid ‘national security threat’ case against Assange, most US media commentators and legal minds say there’s nothing to prevent the US adding more serious charges against the Wikileaks founder once he lands on American soil.

The world is watching and people are reacting everywhere – from Ecuadoreans taking to the streets on Tuesday to condemn President Moreno as ‘a sellout’, to protests outside Ecuador embassies in London, Paris and other European capitals, as well as some US cities.

Assange was also awarded on Tuesday by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for his sacrifices in defense of press freedom.

Interestingly, while Assange has been both arrested and awarded, none of the international mainstream media houses that made good use of Wikileaks material over the years have yet come to his defense.

Liberal media, on the other hand, are wary of the potential consequences, while growing increasingly weary of trying to show those who don’t yet or simply refuse to see or accept that if the US gets away with jailing Assange, it can have serious implications for how journalists everywhere else seek information — and protect sources.

Voices of protest and concern are growing louder across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America that Assange could very well eventually die in prison if and when he is extradited to the US, where at least one legislator is on record as having publicly invited anyone to ‘Just shoot the sonofabitch!’

But where is the Caribbean’s voice?

Do CARICOM governments support such naked transnational transgressions in pursuit of punishment for publication of information deemed perilous by doers of bad in the name of good?

Do Caribbean media houses yet see that information gathering is now being outlawed and journalism is being criminalized by the world’s most powerful nation?

Do Caribbean journalists realize that if and when the USA sets that standard, it will just be a matter of time before other governments feel it is okay to do likewise?

This is more than just about Julian Assange, as all aspects of press freedom are threatened by this clear move to make him an example to others the world over – including the Caribbean — of just what can happen to journalists who refuse to dance with Uncle Sam, who, the world is still expected to believe, always gets what he wants!

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