2012-06-21 Live Blog: Assange requests political asylum from Ecuador (Archive - Day 3)

This is part of our live-coverage on Julian Assange's request for political asylum. The most recent news is available here. See the archives for coverage of previous days.

Follow @wl_central on Twitter for all the latest updates.

WikiLeaks announced via Twitter on the evening of June 19 (19:40 local time) that Julian Assange has requested political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

This comes after the UK Supreme Court refused a submission to reopen his case on June 14. Julian Assange has spent 560 days under house arrest without charge. His extradition to Sweden is set between June 28 and July 7.

Mr Assange will remain at the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while they process his request.

In his statement to the Diplomatic Mission of Ecuador, Julian Assange commented on his abandonment by his home country, Australia, as well as the threat of the death penalty in the U.S.

Ecuador offered political asylum to Julian Assange in November 2010. At that time, Vice Chancellor Kintto Lucas stated, "We are open to grant him Ecuadorian residency, without any kind of problem or any kind of conditions." (President Rafeal Correa afterwards stated the offer was not official.)

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was a guest on Julian Assange's talk show "The World Tomorrow" this past May. The full interview is available online in English, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Arabic.

Updates will be added as they become available.


[UPDATE: 22:17 BST] Audio from Julian Assange's interview today with ABC Radio Nation Breakfast is now available. We are currently working on a transcript.

[UPDATE: 22:03 BST] Julian Assange was on ABC Radio National Breakfast discussing his application for asylum in Ecuador. The audio is not online yet, but will be available at the Breakfast website. We will provide transcript shortly after.

Washington Post's poll currently shows that 84% of people believe that Julian Assange should be allowed to leave Britain for asylum in Ecuador.

[UPDATE: 20:18 BST] Supporters of Julian Assange have been holding a vigil outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since Mr Assange applied for bail. The vigil will continue tomorrow morning.

[UPDATE: 20:10 BST] At the Rio+20 conference, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa made the following statement (originally in Spanish; translation via Professor's Blogg):

Ecuador is a territory of peace, justice, and truth – as described by Assange in his Asylum-petition letter.

We are very seriously analysing the reasons presented by Assange in his asylum request. We do not permit that the life of any human being shall be in danger. We believe that the first right of the humans is the right to life.

We refute political persecutions regardless of the ideology a person holds.

[UPDATE: 20:00 BST] Vaughan Smith was interviewed by Reuters about Julian Assange's request for asylum. Mr Smith is a friend of Mr Assange's who provided his house arrest location for a year and also helped provide his bail surety.

We seem to welcome it when a Chinese dissident goes to an American embassy, but when an Australian dissident in London goes to an Ecuadorean embassy we try to suggest it's nuts.

On Mr Assange's concerns about extradition to the U.S. and charges that could lead to life imprisonment or death, Mr Smith said the following:

I don't think we should be blind to that possibility. He clearly believes that. We can't comment whether that's realistic, but I think we can accept that it's reasonable for him to believe that.

Mr Smith continued:

He is no fool. He is a clever man, and he is very committed to his work at WikiLeaks which he is convinced serves a social purpose. I can assure you that he's committed to carrying on, and that's what I believe is his main motivator.

Why should we automatically assume that justice is freely available to Assange in Sweden?

Mr Smith also criticized Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt for commenting publicly on the Assange case:

We would be disturbed by that in this country. We would feel it was not correct.

Considering the uniqueness of his situation, the Swedes could have attempted to reassure him and they haven't. They've done absolutely nothing to reassure him.

Jemima Khan, another supporter who helped provide bail, commented on Twitter:

For the record, in response to those asking about Assange & bail money....

I personally would like to see Assange confront the rape allegations in Sweden and the 2 women at the centre have a right to a response

BUT there is no doubt that Assange has a real fear of being extradited to the US nor that the US gov is out to get WikiLeaks.

[UPDATE: 19:00 BST] Sarah Saunders visited Mr Asange at the Ecuadorian Embassy. She said he is working hard on his asylum bid with the lawyers, and is comfortable and in good spirits. Ms Saunders is one of the supporters who helped put up surety, but she is not worried about her money at this stage.

[UPDATE: 18:17 BST] WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy today. He said it could be hours or days before a decision in reached in Mr Assange's application for asylum. Ecuador has asked for information from Britain, Sweden and the United States to study before deciding whether or not to accept his request. Mr Assange is in good spirits and prepared to wait things out in the Embassy.

[UPDATE: 17:30 BST] Julian Assange's U.S. lawyer Michael Ratner was on RT disccusing the recent developments in his application for asylum. Mr Ratner said this was an important move, as he faces the worst prison in the U.S. with 40+ years in prison or the death penalty.

[UPDATE: 17:27 BST] Christine Assange spoke with her son over the phone recently.

The people who gave surety for his bail support his action. He's got his own money tied up in that as well and his understanding is that (seeking) asylum is an appeal process and his bail should be protected because of that.Julian told me that the asylum process is internationally recognised as a legitimate form of appeal and that the bail should not be forfeited.

The Crown Prosecution Service representing Sweden has been trying to stop ... Julian take his case to the Court of Human Rights. The Supreme Court gave him 14 days to get his appeal in but they (Sweden) are pushing for no days ... which would close that avenue of appeal. That's one of the reasons why he sought asylum.

If they are going to have to go through a detailed legal submission, it's not going to happen overnight. I don't know what his plan is. I guess that will be decided when his asylum is granted.

The fact is that many countries are signatories to this Universal Declaration for Human Rights but it seems that the US and UK and Australia and Sweden have abdicated their responsibility.

[Julian's] spirits are buoyed by the support and he's grateful and humble and thanks his supporters, including those in the media, and he's in fighting spirit. Hearing him sound OK and knowing that he is at least in good hands made a huge difference to me.

Democracy Now! reported on the most recent updated in Julian Assange's application for asylum. They briefly interviewed WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson.

Business Insider published "8 Reasons Why Ecuador Should Give Julian Assange Asylum".

Alexa O'Brien has been gathering evidence which shows the U.S. plan to prosecute Julian Assange, as well as six others. The FBI is targeting those seven civilians for "criminal activity and espionage".

RT correspondent Sarah Firth tweeted:

Interesting - Embassy’s cars are also inviolable so re safe passage #Assange could hop in a diplomatic car http://www.morton-fraser.com/news/2801_assange_in_the_embassy_history_repeating_itself

This means, if granted asylum, Mr Assange may have an easier time getting to Ecuador than previously thought.

[UPDATE: 16:27 BST] According to an overheard journalist, the decision for Julian Assange's asylum request is unlikely to come today, despite the 24 hour period previously set by Ecuador's Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said Mr Assange is working and comfortable.

Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola wrote an article dissecting the sneering reaction by the media to Mr Assange's asylum request, including rehashing old smears that Mr Assange is anti-American and that he is doing this for attention.

[UPDATE: 16:10 BST] Washington Post is holding a poll asking its readers whether Julian Assange should be allowed to leave Britain for asylum in Ecuador. Currently 79% of voters have said he should.

Supporters of Julian Assange continuing rallying outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, despite the rain. (photo via @sombernessunlit)

[UPDATE: 15:55 BST] Twitter users are organizing #Stand4JA, asking people to head to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and be there to ensure Julian Assange can leave the Embassy safely. He will be arrested by the London Police when leaving for breaking his curfew, a part of his bail conditions. A Pirate Pad is also open for discussion and planning.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated she will not meet with Ecuadorian President Rafeal Correa during the Rio+20 Summit.

Julian Assange's mother, Christine, attacked Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr for failing to provide adiquate protections for her son.

This is a person who is uncharged, unquestioned, decorated all around the world for his journalism. It's really awful, here's my kid over there, alone in a foreign embassy with the cops out the side salivating. It's absolutely disgusting.

[UPDATE: 09:55 BST] Sarah Joseph, Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, wrote an article about what is likely to happen next for Julian Assange, depending on whether his request for asylum is approved by the Ecuadorian Government.

Twitter users have been sending their concerns and questions about Mr Assange to Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr using the hashtag #askbob.

A rally in support of Julian Assange is currently taking place in Sydney. Speakers include Cameron Murphy, Richard Neville, Professor Jake Lynch, with statements being read from Phillip Adams, Austin Mackell, Mary Kostakidis, and local Ecuadorian activists.
(photos via @CassPF)

IT Friends of Bradley Manning has posted some photos from the ongoing London vigil for Julian Assange being held in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Adelaide Friends of WikiLeaks are holding a meeting to discuss Mr Assange's situation and plan future support action. The meeting will be held at Alfonso's, 202 Hutt Street, June 24 at 2PM.

[UPDATE: 07:50 BST] In his letter requesting asylum sent to Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, Julian Assange stated "he wants to continue his mission in a country ... without limits, to reveal the truth, in a place of peace dedicated to truth and justice". President Correa said he was impressed with the letter.

The Australian Senate passed a motion by the Greens to withdraw prejudicial statements made against Julian Assange. Here is the full text of the motion:

To move - That the Senate-

Notes that:
1. Inconsistent or selective application of the Consular Services Charter leaves Australian citizens in doubt about the level of assistance they may receive if facing difficulties overseas.

Calls on the Prime Minister to:

1. Ensure that the government's efforts and engagement on behalf of Mr. Julian Assange are consistent with the highest level of support provided to other Australians in difficulty overseas.

2. Retract prejudicial statements regarding the illegality of Wikileaks publishing endeavours, found to be groundless by the Australian Federal Police, which have the potential to seriously jeopardise the potential for any fair trial or hearing for Mr. Assange.

The Australian Socialist Equality Party (SEP) condemned the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Labor Government for "its role in forcing WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange to seek asylum in Ecuador", i.e. failure to give him even the basic assurances that he would be protected from U.S. extradition and prosecution.

NYT eXaminer tracked the changes that NYT journalist Ravi Somaiya made to his article about Julian Assange's application for asylum. It shows how he started with an angle focused on Ecuador, changed to Mr Assange's violation of bail conditions, and then to a "stand off" between Britain and Ecuador. It also shows that an entire paragraph on the WikiLeaks Grand Jury was deleted.

Bernard Keane wrote an op-ed in Crikey which comments on how the U.S. "has already won" against WikiLeaks by strangling it with a financial blockade and causing Mr Assange to request asylum due to the real concern that the U.S. will extradite and prosecute him.

Today, Crikey's "First Dog on the Moon" comic was about Julian Assange's application for asylum in Ecuador.

[UPDATE: 03:50 BST] Sydney Morning Herald has published "A rough guide to refuge in Ecuador" which details what Julian Assange may expect if his request for political asylum is granted.

Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam wrote an article for The Drum entitled "No surprise Assange looking elsewhere for support". He describes the hostile environments in both Australia and the U.S. towards the WikiLeaks founder.

[UPDATE: 03:08 BST] A vigil for Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London is continuing overnight, according to an email sent out by WISE UP for Bradley Manning. Those present at the vigil are asking that people come with tents and umbrellas.

Ecuadorian Embassy Location:
Flat 3B 3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LS.
Tel: 020 7584 1367
Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge

[UPDATE: 02:45 BST] Human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson visited Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy. In an interview with ABC AM, she commented that Mr Assange would not have the option to seek asylum after extradition to Sweden. She also stated that Mr Assange remains willing to be questioned by the Swedish prosecution while at the Embassy.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently stated: "Our High Commisison in London is ... discussing the matter involving Mr ‪Assange‬ directly with their counterparts from Equador."

The Young Turks discussed Mr Assange's application for political asylum. Watch the segment below. (Please note that despite the use of the word "charges", Mr Assange has not been charged with any crime.)

[UPDATE: 02:02 BST] The Alyona Show discussed Julian Assange's request for political asylum in depth, featuring Jesselyn Radack from the Government Accountability Project and Kevin Zeese of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

[UPDATE: 01:48 BST] Many of Julian Assange's high-profile supporters who provided his bail have come out in favor of his decision to seek asylum.

Tariq Ali:

I totally approve. Why the double-standards? A Chinese dissident becomes a folk-hero for reaching the US embassy, but a Western dissident doing the same re a South American embassy is not kosher. Fuck the money.

Phillip Knightly:

I would [provide bail] again. He felt as I do that he’s a victim of a conspiracy. He’s been found guilty of nothing. The Swedes want to plug him in irons as soon as he arrived.

Bianca Jagger:

I wouldn’t presume to advise Julian Assange on a course of action. Only he and his legal team can make an informed judgement.

One thing I know is that the US Federal government can impose the death penalty. For many years I have campaigned on behalf of prisoners on death row in America. I know how many miscarriages of justice take place. This is one of the reasons I have been campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty in the USA and throughout the world.

If one looks at the trial of Bradley Manning, which has been an appalling mockery of the judicial process, one can understand Julian Assange’s concern. He fears that justice will not be served if he is extradited to the United States.

[UPDATE: 01:00 BST] Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño Aroca made a statement on Twitter regarding Julian Assange's request for asylum. Here is a translation via @Jaraparilla:

Thanks for the thousands of messages received regarding the request for political asylum made by Julian Assange to the govt of Ecuador yesterday. Assange's request requires in depth analysis. Ecuador declares that it will protect the human rights to life and freedom of expression. We are now studying the risk claimed by Assange of being judged for political reasons and that he could be condemned to death. Ecuador's constitution respects the right to life, does not recognize the death penalty and fully defends freedom of expression. The Ecuadorean government led by Rafael Correa has maintained a sovereign and principal foreign policy which will not change now.

[UPDATE: 00:50 BST] RT interviewed WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson outside the Ecuadorian Embassy. He says Mr Assange is in good spirits as always and is certain he has made the right move by requesting asylum. Watch the interview below.

An vigil for Julian Assange will take place at the Occupy Frankfurt Camp on 23 June, from 9PM.

[UPDATE: 2012-06-21 00:13 BST] Ecuador's Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja stated that the decision on Julian Assange's asylum request is expected within 24 hours.

A thousand apologies, but we still can't make a final decision public yet until tomorrow. The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow. So the only information I can add is to refer you to statements already made.

Per E Samuelson, Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer, was on Sveriges Radio. He said Mr Assange is not afraid of the allegations in Sweden, but rather his potential extradition to the U.S. He also said things are a bit chaotic now, but Mr Assange has a temporary room in the Embassy and everything is under control.

RT America gave an update on Mr Assange's current status:

Christine Assange was interviewed on RT about her son's choice to seek asylum.