Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Battle drawn in Wikileaks chief's sex assault case

Britain vows confrontation over asylum
Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum on Thursday, setting up a standoff with the British government, which has vowed to block his exit from the country.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo PatiƱo said that Ecuador granted Assange political asylum because the national leadership believes the United States and the UK are persecuting him for his actions as the head of WikiLeaks. Applause greeted the announcement.
The activist organization has released millions of classified documents on the internet, most of them diplomatic and military cables detailing the U.S. and other coaltion forces' operations during the Iraq war.
As many as 5 million e-mails between Austin-based private intelligence service operator Stratfor and various CIA and other intelligence operatives have also been released in the past few months.
An early release of a purloined document included a video taken by a gun camera. It depicted a U.S. helicopter crew gunning down journalists in a targeted hit on suspected terrorists.
Other cables detail cruel treatment and torture of prisoners of war by coalition military forces and private contract agents working under CIA supervision. Most of the documents have been obtained from discontented communications technicians who were operating under security clearances at the time they took their illegal actions.
Mr. Assange took to a balcony and defended his actions as an exercise in free speech.
Activist filmmakers Michael Moore and Oliver Stone joined him in that opinion, co-authoring an op-ed piece that characterized the Ecuadorian decision as a heroic action in defense of freedom of speech.
Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he fled to avoid extradition charges to Sweden. He is wanted there to face allegations of rape, but he fears that he will be swiftly transferred to the United States, where he says he could be prosecuted for leaking classified material through WikiLeaks.
Sweden has denied that it has any such intentions. A lawyer for the women who have accused Assange of sexually assaulting them told news outlets that the idea was "absurd," and that Assange needed to be "brought to justice."
But one of Assange's lawyers, Michael Ratner, said on "Democracy Now!" that the threat was very real. "If Julian Assange were to go to Sweden, he would be put in jail immediately. He is not allowed to get bail in Sweden," he said. "...At that point, the U.S. files its extradition request."

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