The drama stemming from the leaking of sheaf after sheaf of sensitive documents, including diplomatic cables sent out by the US, continues. Julian Assange, the founder of the Wikileaks website on which the information revealing the truth to the world about murky politics played out globally, continues to occupy centre stage in this piece of theatre. Since June this year, Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after seeking asylum in the South American nation.
For two months, things had appeared to be at a standstill, but they have now moved forward dramatically. Assange’s asylum request has been accepted by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa this month; the Australian’s gambit in picking Ecuador — apparently based on a friendly interview with Correa and the president’s open distaste for the US — seems to have paid off. But both Sweden and the UK are not pleased. Sweden has been seeking Assange’s extradition on sexual assault charges, which the Wikileaks’ founder denies. He is also convinced that extradition to Sweden would be followed by a move to hand him over to the US for trial on the Wikileaks affair. London has said that it is bound by law to respect Sweden’s extradition request and will not allow Assange safe passage out of the country. Ecuador has interpreted this as an assault on its sovereignty and also criticised a warning issued from London stating that the Ecuadorian embassy could be stripped of its diplomatic status and a police raid made to net Assange.
An affair that began with a few leaked documents has turned into a global crisis. The Ecuadorian parliament has backed the presidential decision and 11 South American nations are meeting to discuss the matter. The question of free expression seems to have got lost in the midst of this scenario, since so many other complexities have emerged, which are increasingly hard to unravel. For now, Assange’s future remains uncertain, and it is hard to say what his final fate will be.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2012.