Editorial: Assange is right to seek asylum
WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange is right to seek political asylum in Ecuador. He was left with no other choice after the Australian government made clear it would do nothing to prevent his extradition to the United States on espionage charges.
His real “crime” is groundbreaking journalism, which has exposed the lies and crimes of governments around the world, especially the US.
The Australian government’s "slimy rhetoric" about Assange’s case is contemptible. The government has claimed it knows nothing about US plans to prosecute Assange. Australian diplomatic cables obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald in December showed the Australian government knows very well about the US’s “unprecedented” criminal investigation into Assange.
The Labor government is prepared to stand by and let the US get hold of Assange without protest. Assange is the first Australian in history forced to seek political asylum in another country.
Predictably, Western politicians and most of the mainstream media have condemned Assange, saying he should give himself up and go to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors say they want to question Assange over sexual assault allegations.
But the fact that Swedish prosecutors have not charged Assange with any crime is telling. They have refused Assange’s request to interview him about the allegations, even though he has been under house arrest in Britain for more than 560 days.
When the allegations first surfaced, Swedish prosecutors dismissed the case and repeatedly refused Assange’s attempts to meet with them for an interview. Months later, a different, politically-appointed Swedish prosecutor reopened the case and applied for Assange’s extradition from Britain.
Swedish authorities have never explained their refusal to question Assange. But it's clear that if they had questioned him, they would be forced to either charge or exonerate him.
If Assange went to Sweden, he would be held incommunicado without charge and subject to a secret pre-trail. Swedish law provides for the “temporary surrender” of prisoners to the US. If Assange went to Sweden it is likely he would be sent to the US.
If Assange were to end up in the US, he would face charges that could carry the dealth penalty. The US government’s treatment of alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning gives an insight into how Assange might be treated. The UN has said the US’s treatment of Manning has been “cruel and inhuman”.