Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Future of WikiLeaks' Assange to be Decided in Ecuador Elections

teleSUR | Mar 29, 2017

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in the London for the past five years, fearing extradition to the U.S. | Photo: Reuters
Political analyst Nicolas Reyes told teleSUR that ending Julian Assange's asylum would have regional and global ramifications for information freedom.

As Ecuadoreans head to the polls on Sunday, the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in Ecuador's London embassy since receiving asylum from the South American nation in 2012, will also be decided.

Presidential candidate and former banker Guillermo Lasso, of the right-wing CREO party, said earlier this month that if he wins the election, he will revoke Assange's assylum saying it's “no longer necessary.” He said he would ask Assange to leave “within 30 days,” alleging the costs of keeping him at the embassy are a financial burden.

“The Ecuadorean people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” Lasso said during an interview in Quito.

Political analyst and writer Nicolas Reyes recently told teleSUR that pulling Assange's asylum could have global ramifications.

"This would be a totally unwise decision because we know that what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have done is reveal how the big powers attempt to control the world through war, the economy and intervention in countries," Reyes said. "So this would also be a serious blow to the sovereignty of information and for the issue of transparency of information."

He added that kicking Assange out of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London would have both regional and global repercussions.

"Here in Ecuador there are already groups that have demonstrated against (Lasso's) position, groups that have confirmed that Ecuador demands that Julian Assange's asylum continues because it is a fundamental issue in geopolitical disputes at this moment," he said.

One such group raising its voice in Ecuador for Assange is, the Free Software Association, which, along with other cyber activists, recently announced they were worried about Assange's situation in light of the upcoming elections.

"We don't only ask for respect to the already given asylum, but also for it to be complete," said David Ochoa, president of the association.

Lenin Moreno, from the governing Alianza Pais party, said he would uphold Assange's asylum status.

The left-wing government of president Rafael Correa granted Assange asylum over concerns over political persecution and his potential extradition to the United States, where he could face decades in jail for WikiLeaks' publication of 500,000 secret military files related to U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Before receiving asylum, he was detained by U.K. authorities over allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

Brazilian intellectual, theologian and Dominican friar Frei Betto said last week while visiting Ecuador that he hoped the new government maintains the asylum.

"I hope that whatever the government of Ecuador is, it continues to assure Julian Assange the right to asylum," said Betto during a news conference in Quito.

Betto also said that people "must fight" to end the need for his asylum, but since that it's not possible in the immediate term, his asylum should be guaranteed.

"It's a scandal that this man is persecuted for speaking the truth", said Betto.

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