The latest twist in the strange case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is that Ecuador has decided to grant him asylum. Of course there are no prospects of his reaching that country, since Assange is holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London just now and British authorities have no intention of letting him ride the tube out to Heathrow.
What a farce. Assange has done everything humanly possible to avoid facing allegations of sexual assault in Sweden, to which Britain has been trying to extradite him, and this latest outbreak of martyrdom, while convenient, isn’t persuasive. The Swedes are great upholders of the rights of the accused, and Assange’s claims that he merits protection from their justice system are absurd.
No doubt Assange's real concern is that the Swedes might extradite him to face charges here for revealing thousands of pages of classified government documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the private cable traffic of U.S. diplomatic personnel. Ecuador has even made the ridiculous suggestion that he might face the death penalty in this country if extradited from Sweden. But in order to gain extradition, the United States would have to pledge to Sweden or Britain that Assange wouldn't face capital punishment -- otherwise they couldn't legally comply. Besides, American authorities would be crazy to prosecute him, thereby heaping more attention on a man who revels in it.
Ironically, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa hasn’t exactly been a friend of the values Assange espouses. As I pointed out in this space in June, the publisher of an Ecuadoran newspaper, facing three years behind bars for supposedly defaming Correa, took refuge in the Panamanian embassy in Quito and was eventually granted asylum. In fact, Correa has been aggressive about restraining the press at home, even as he rises to the defense of the great advocate of openness in London. I am guessing Assange won’t be releasing a trove of embarrassing Ecuadoran documents any time soon.