On His 47th Birthday, Assange Remains in Limbo at Ecuador Embassy
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on Tuesday, 3 July, will be celebrating his 47th birthday in the same Ecuadorian embassy in London that has been his abode for 6 years now. His motives, his interventions, his leaks, and not to forget the status of his asylum at the embassy have been subjects of intense debates.
Two days after the United States Vice President, Mike Pence, in a meeting with Ecuador President Lenin Moreno, discussed Assange, an Ecuadorian diplomat on Monday, 2 July, said Washington can't decide the fate of Australian programmer.
Assange, masquerading as a motorcycle courier in 2012, had arrived outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking political asylum.
He was accused of rape and molestation in two separate cases in Sweden in 2010 during his visit to Stockholm for a lecture. He was arrested in London in 2010, and two years later, the UK Supreme Court ruled that he should be extradited to Sweden. The Ecuadorian embassy, however, thought otherwise. It granted him political asylum, citing fears of human rights violation if he is extradited.
Where is Assange Now?
It's been six years since Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy, and uncertainty over his future looms large. According to this report in The Independent, Assange says that he is willing to face the prosecution in the UK on one condition – that he is not extradited to the United States. Assange's demand has never been overtly accepted.
His alleged involvement in the 2016 US Presidential elections was of particular interest to the world. His organisation published thousands of e-mails of Democratic representatives, compelling an unlikely response from the then-Republican nominee, Donald Trump. "I love WikiLeaks," he had said.
Months later, when after her loss to Trump, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, said that Assange's decision to leak emails was crucial in ensuring her defeat.
Just last year, the then-CIA director Mike Pompeo had said: “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
What's Next for Assange?
Jennifer Robinson, a member of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks’ legal team since 2010, had, on 18 February 2018, said that the UK government refused to confirm or deny whether there was an extradition request or give an assurance against extradition, which means "we cannot be confident he can walk out of the embassy without being arrested and extradited to the US”.
While time and again conflicting reports about the future status of his asylum have surfaced, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia on Monday, 2 July, said that only "Ecuador and the United Kingdom, and of course Mr Assange as a person who is currently staying, on asylum, at our embassy" will decide the next steps.
With that, Valencia clarified that "it does not enter, therefore, on an agenda with the United States", despite Mike Pence's discussion with Ecuador president.
Just last week, Valencia had said that Ecuador "is hoping to solve this problem, because in principle an asylum is not eternal, one cannot conceive of an asylum that lasts for years."
However, it's still unclear when the WikiLeaks founder will walk out of the embassy in London without the fear of being extradited to the US.