On Friday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke publicly from his now customary position on a balcony at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, for the first time since rape charges were dropped by Swedish prosecutors.
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Assange has been holed up in the Embassy under asylum, believing that the Swedish arrest warrant was simply a European ruse to get him to Sweden, who would immediately extradite him the U.S. under a secret sealed indictment.
“Today is an important victory for me, and for the UN human rights system. But it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge – in prison, under house arrest, and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight,” Assange said from his balcony.
“Seven years without charge, while my children grew up without me. That is not something that I can forgive, it is not something that I can forget.
“The inevitable inquiry into what has occurred in this moment of terrible injustice is something that I hope will be more than just about me, and this situation, because the reality is, detention and extradition without charge has become a feature of the EU.
“A feature which has been exploited, yes, in my case, for political reasons, but for other cases have subjected many people to terrible injustices.”
Assange conceded that “while today was an important victory, an important vindication,” the “the war is far from over.”
He says, “WikiLeaks will continue publication,” but noted that he was happy to engage in dialogue with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“While US has made extremely threatening remarks, always happy to engage in dialogue over what has occurred.”
“My staff, my legal staff, have contacted the UK authorities and we hope to engage in a dialogue about what is the best way forward.
“To some extent the UK has been exploited by the process it entered into with the EU, where it agreed to extradite people without charge.
“That is to extend a forced position the UK has been put into. And, the first part of that is over. The UK refuses to confirm or deny at this stage whether a US extradition warrant is in the UK territory.”
Assange went on to thank “Ecuador, its people, and its asylum system. They have stood by my asylum in the face of intense pressure.”
He then took the opportunity to comment on the release of Chelsea Manning.
“We have had an even more important victory this week [and] that is the release of Chelsea Manning after seven years in military prison.”
Assange also gave thanks to the UN human rights system as a last resort for people “bound up by our legal circumstances” dealing with the politics or geopolitics of states.
In November, Assange was finally questioned aver a two-day period. However, as Assange points out, “my Swedish lawyer was excluded from the room in yet another breach of my basic rights.” In spite of this unlawful questioning, today’s dropped charges reveal the police never had a case in the first place.
Meanwhile concerns are being expressed about an attempt to flush Assange out into the open, away from the Embassy and its security details. Once free to leave there are few places Assange can go. He remains a wanted man in many countries and with his high profile he would become easy to locate. Especially for a trained CIA operative, or hit-man.
In August 2016 a man was detected scaling the wall of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Mr. Assange has been living for the past five years. Many have speculated the attempted break-in may have been a planned assassination. The intruder, despite being apprehended by embassy security staff ‘managed to escape.’
In a 19-page statement, also released in December, Assange details the events leading up to his persecution, including being railroaded by the American, Swedish, English and Australian governments. The sentiment then was the same as it was today.
‘YOU HAVE SUBJECTED ME TO SIX YEARS OF UNLAWFUL, POLITICIZED DETENTION WITHOUT CHARGE IN PRISON, UNDER HOUSE ARREST AND FOUR AND A HALF YEARS AT THIS EMBASSY.
YOU SHOULD HAVE ASKED ME THIS QUESTION SIX YEARS AGO. YOUR ACTIONS IN REFUSING TO TAKE MY STATEMENT FOR THE LAST SIX YEARS HAVE BEEN FOUND TO BE UNLAWFUL BY THE UN WORKING GROUP ON ARBITRARY DETENTION AND BY THE SWEDISH COURT OF APPEAL.
YOU HAVE BEEN FOUND TO HAVE SUBJECTED ME TO CRUEL, INHUMAN AND DEGRADING TREATMENT. YOU HAVE DENIED ME EFFECTIVE LEGAL REPRESENTATION IN THIS PROCESS.
DESPITE THIS, I FEEL COMPELLED TO COOPERATE EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE NOT SAFEGUARDING MY RIGHTS. I REFER YOU TO MY STATEMENT WHERE ALL THESE QUESTIONS WERE ANSWERED.’
Not coincidentally, all of these allegations of Assange’s alleged sexual misconduct came after he began exposing the war crimes of the US government, after being leaked information by the heroic Manning.
Assange’s victory today is a major one. But, like he said, we still have a long way to go to make truth the norm.
(With additional reporting from the Free Thought Project)