'Assange's asylum restrictions similar to a maximum security jail' – human rights activist
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed on Monday that Ecuador is planning to end his political asylum and hand him over to the US. Ecuadorian court threw out Assange's lawsuit over his living conditions at the country's embassy in London.
Ecuadorian court threw out Assange's lawsuit over his living conditions at the country's embassy in London.
Earlier, the Ecuadorian embassy issued a memo, giving Assange a list of rules to follow, if he wants to continue his six-year stay in the building. These include restrictions on personal visits and a ban on communications that could harm Ecuador or its relations with foreign states.
RT:Julian Assange is now saying Ecuador wants to throw him out of the embassy and hand him over to the US. Although Ecuador has not confirmed this yet. Do you think that's likely to happen?
Peter Tatchell:The conditions imposed on Julian Assange by the Ecuadorian authorities are extremely draconian. They are in some respect similar to the kinds of restrictions that a prisoner would face in a maximum security jail. To give you an example, the Ecuadorian authorities reserve for themselves on their own whim to decide whether he can have visitors or not. They will decide who the visitors are, when they'll come, how long they'll stay, but also those visitors, including his own lawyers must hand over codes and passwords for their laptops, their mobile phones. And the Ecuadorian authorities reserve the right to take information from those private confidential sources and give them to whoever they wish.
They also reserve the right to confiscate anything brought in to the embassy by a visitor to Julian Assange. In some respects, some aspects of these conditions are reasonable. But the way they are being imposed very clearly with the intention of making life unbearable for Mr. Assange does appear to be part of the deliberate strategy to make life so bad for him that he voluntarily leaves even though Ecuador is saying that he is welcome to stay.
RT:An Ecuadorian court threw out Assange's lawsuit over the new rules he has to obey at the embassy. Was there any merit to his case?
PT: Certainly, as a citizen of Ecuador, after all he was granted citizenship of Ecuador by the government, he has all the rights that go along with citizenship. And these include freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of access to information. Clearly, some aspects of the new conditions imposed by Ecuador are in violation of those basic fundamental civil liberties, principles which would not be tolerated in Ecuador itself. Yet, the Ecuadorian embassy in London is Ecuadorian territory and it is imposing very different, much tougher restrictions than it would on Ecuadorian citizens living in Ecuador itself. That is a strong case in favor of Mr. Assange. I am somewhat perplexed that the Ecuadorian courts have rejected his application. I can't say why that was refused but it is strange because the courts in Ecuador do have a reasonably good record in upholding civil liberties and the rights of the citizen.
RT:Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has described the Assange situation as an "inherited problem" from the former government. Does Quito now just see him as an inconvenience and does it have anything to gain from keeping him at the embassy?
PT: Julian Assange was granted refuge in the embassy on the basis that he would be granted political asylum and citizenship of Ecuador. And with political asylum and citizenship, go certain rights and indeed responsibilities. The previous government seemed to happily accept that. It seemed to recognize that it was a real danger that if Julian Assange was either forced out of the embassy or voluntarily stepped outside of the embassy, he would be seized by the British authorities, he would be penalized for having skipped bail, which indeed he did and that was unlawful. But more worryingly, that the British authorities would then hand him over to the US where a secret Grand jury has been convened with the intention of slapping him with a whole range of charges carrying prison sentences of 30 or even 50 years in jail. That is pretty clear what the US is angling for and neither the Ecuadorian government nor the British government have said they will not hand over Mr. Assange to the US. Neither country has given an assurance, if they gave that assurance, then i suspect Julian Assange would step outside the embassy, he would face those charges for skipping bail and then he would be free to go his way after the appropriate fine or even a short prison term in a British jail.
Extradited for what? He published material leaked by Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower, which shed light on human rights abuses and war crimes by the US, and double standards and duplicity by the US government in its diplomatic relations. He caused an inconvenience and embarrassment to the US government. In my view, that was a great public service. He gave the American public and the rest of the world the information to know what the US government and military were really doing. We should have had that information as a matter of course. The government is supposed to be of the people, for the people and by the people, but it wasn't. Julian Assange took that information that Chelsea Manning provided and published it. In the same way that the New York Times and the Guardian in London have also published that material. Why is Julian Assange being singled out as a publisher when these other big publishing houses are not being slapped by the Grand Jury with the prospect of 30-50 years in jail? It is double standards.
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