Julian Assange, co-founder of the whistle-blower organization WikiLeaks, was granted political asylum by the London-based Ecuadorian embassy last month, on Thursday, August 16. Assange applied for political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in June after he was granted bail and able to leave the house he had been living in under house arrest for the past one and a half years.
In a public appearance he gave from the balcony of the embassy on Saturday, August 18, he praised the bravery and courage of the Latin American nation, and condemned Australia’s lack of support for him.
“I am grateful to the Ecuadorian people, President Rafael Correa and his government…. It was not Britain or my home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American nation,” he said.
However, no comments were made on how or when Assange would hope to leave the embassy and travel to Ecuador.
Currently, the WikiLeaks co-founder faces the possibility that he may be extradited to Sweden in response to rape allegations, to which Assange claims are “politically motivated”. From Sweden, he then faces a further extradition to America, in which it is likely he will receive a life sentence for committing sedition and espionage under US law for leaking thousands of confidential diplomatic cables.
The President of Ecuador, Rafael Vicente Correa, took a stand for Assange.
“Assange never stole the information,” he said. “It was handed to him by Bradley Manning. He just distributed it. So why didn’t the newspapers that published it also get sanctioned? That is an international double standard. The answer is that the newspapers have power, whereas Mr Assange is just a citizen. That is why certain countries want to crush him with all their weight.”
The Australian government has been mostly silent on the topic, with only brief comments made by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard in December 2010 stating that the activities conducted by WikiLeaks are “illegal”.
Politics student at the University of Wollongong, Josie Stuart, who has been following the issue closely, had this to say in an interview on Monday, “The Australian Government isn’t interested in his human rights, and see him as a burden, especially as he’s standing in between the strong relationship between Australia and America. However, there is still very strong public support for him globally, it will be interesting to see how he will be treated when the whole world is watching.”