The Socialist Alliance released the statement below on August 25.
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The government of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa gave Julia Gillard's Australian government a lesson in dignity on August 16 when, facing British threats to raid its London embassy, it granted asylum to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.
The founder of the whistleblowing website is being pursued by the powerful for his role in exposing their crimes. It comes on top of a sustained financial blockade by major financial institutions aimed at crippling WikiLeaks, verbal death threats against Assange by leading US politicians and the persecution of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, who faces a court martial and a potential death penalty.
Ironically, Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to the Australian citizen who founded the whistleblowing website came on the same day the Australian Senate voted to further punish those seeking asylum in this country. WikiLeaks has exposed war crimes committed by the United States in countries such as Afghanistan — from where many of those who seek asylum in Australia have fled.
In February, WikiLeaks published secret emails from private intelligence firm Stratfor that shows US authorities have drawn up secret charges against Assange. This adds weight to the very real fear held by Assange — and the grounds on which Ecuador granted him asylum — that he could be extradited from Sweden to the US to face persecution for his role in exposing US war crimes.
The fact that alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning has been jailed without trial for more than 800 days shows what may lie ahead for Assange.
Britain is seeking to deny Ecuador the right to grant Assange asylum by insisting it will arrest Assange if he leaves the Ecuadorean embassy, where he has been holed up since June. Britain claims it is merely seeking to fulfill the court order to extradite Assange to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations. However, the allegations facing Assange are being used as a cover for attacks on WikiLeaks.
Allegations of rape are very serious and deserve full investigation. However, this is not the issue at stake in Assange’s asylum case. Ecuador — like Assange — has said it would have no issue with Assange travelling to Sweden to face questioning by Swedish authorities if Sweden and the US gave guarantees he would not be extradited to the US. The fact this guarantee has not been given shows the fears are far from ungrounded.
Assange, who has not been charged with any crime, has also expressed his willingness to be questioned over the allegations in London. Sweden has refused to do so.
In granting Assange asylum, Ecuador has shamed the Australian government, which has abandoned its citizen to appease its powerful US ally. The Australian government has publicly denied Assange faces a threat from the US, yet Fairfax media reported on August 18 on leaked cables that shows the Australian diplomatic service was fully aware “the United States is still gunning for Julian Assange”.
Unlike Gillard’s government, Rafael Correa’s government has shown itself willing to stand up to powerful interests. Correa’s government has confronted US domination and corporate power.
Among other measures, it has overseen the adoption of a new progressive, democratic constitution approved by popular vote; raised taxes on mining corporations; and dramatically increased social spending in the interests of the poor majority. As a result of such policies, polls put Correa’s approval rating at more than 70%.
Many corporate media commentators have attacked Correa over alleged violations of free speech. In fact, Correa’s government is seeking to democratise the media, which is almost entirely controlled by Ecuador’s pro-US oligarchy.
Ecuador’s elites hate Correa’s elected government and constantly campaign to bring it down. Correa is seeking to promote community and state media outlets to give a say to a wider range of Ecuadorean voices.
A political outsider, Correa was first elected in 2006 on a platform of a “citizen’s revolution” to tackle poverty, national development and democratise the nation. This forms part of the “Bolivarian revolution” that began in Venezuela and is sweeping much of Latin America.
The example of a government willing to tackle powerful interests and implement pro-people policies is one we should seek to follow in this country.
We congratulate Rafael Correa and his government on its stance, as well those nations across Latin America — from the anti-imperialist ALBA bloc to the Union of South American Nations — that are supporting Ecuador.
We also call on the Australian government to stop its complicity with the attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks and instead:
• Respect Ecuador's decision to grant Assange asylum and call on British to respect Ecuadorean sovereignty.
• Call for the United States to publicly declare it will not seek to extradite Assange and to drop its documented plans to pursue Assange for his role with WikiLeaks.
• Release any information it has on IS plans to target Assange or anyone else in relation to WikiLeaks' activities