It has been with some degree of fascination that I have followed the unfolding of the Julian Assange saga. While I have been apt to question what all this meant for the so much talk about freedom of speech, Britain’s recent attitude towards it has been nothing but amusing. In all this however, I see Assange being the ultimate winner as it has done nothing but increase his popularity – something he will surely cherish. While Britain has said that it remains committed to reaching a diplomatic solution to the presence of Assage in Ecuador’s London embassy, after both countries took steps to defuse a row over his action in taking refuge, Noam Chomsky has proclaimed Assange a true democrat.
The WikiLeaks founder who has been living in the Ecudaorian embassy’s quarters for more than two months in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations received his accolade in a discussion New Matilda had with Chomsky as presented in the following write-up by Tamara Fenjan of NewMatilda.com,
Last week NM spoke with US intellectual giant Noam Chomsky about Julian Assange, who is now the centre of a diplomatic nightmare in London. Tamara Fenjan reports
Julian Assange has been granted asylum by the Ecuadorian government, creating a diplomatic row between the Latin American nation and the United Kingdom, which remains intent to extradite him to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault. While voices have been raised in Sweden and the UK, the US has so far declined to “interject” itself into the situation.
However, there is one American who has been loud and clear in his support of Assange — MIT linguistics professor and left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky.
Last week Chomsky told New Matilda he believes Assange is right to fear extradition to Sweden, where if the USA asks for him to be extradited he would “be on the next flight”.
“If Swedish interrogators want to interrogate him they can do it in London,” Chomsky told NM. “Everyone in their right mind knows that this is a stepping stone to the US.” He draws a parallel with Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of having leaked thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, and says that what to happened Manning is a clear indication of how Assange will be treated if he is extradited to the United States.
Manning has been held in a military prison for almost a year and a half without trial — most of that time in solitary confinement.
“There is no doubt that the purpose of all this is to get [Manning] to say something about Assange, who will also be treated the same way if he ever comes to the US. … Therefore, a decent country at this time — if there is one — would grant him political asylum,” Chomsky said.
Chomsky says of the Swedish legal system “that one can not rely on it, which is not so surprising.” Sweden cooperated with the Nazis during World War II and is now working with the Americans, he points out. “Sweden cooperates with whoever is in power … suppose that Syria asks Sweden to extradite somebody to Syria whom they accuse works with the rebels — would Sweden do it? No!”
“By right [Assange] ought to get a medal of honour. He’s performing his responsibilities as a citizen of a democratic society and people ought to know what their representatives are doing ”
The question now is whether UK police will storm the Ecuadorian embassy, located in London’s Knightsbridge. Wikileaks reports via Twitter that this morning “there are still over 35 police surrounding the Ecuadorian embassy”, and has issued a statement condemning “in the strongest possible terms the UK’s resort to intimidation”.
“A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum seekers worldwide,” the organisation said.
Assange’s fears seem to be corroborated by private confirmation given to Craig Murray, a respected former UK ambassador and human rights activist:
“I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the [Foreign and Commonwealth Office] that the UK government has indeed decided — after immense pressure from the Obama administration — to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.
“This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries — arguably millennia — of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.”
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam spoke this week in support of Assange. Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the Federal Government would not “make representations one way or the other” regarding Assange’s asylum claim.