London: Ecuador grants Julian Assange political asylum, British forces threaten to storm embassy

From the capitalist media:

LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum on Thursday by Ecuador, raising the possibility of a diplomatic showdown between British and Ecuadoran authorities.

The transparency campaigner has been holed up at the Embassy of Ecuador in London for nearly eight weeks after seeking refuge there in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.

Ecuador has announced it’s granting political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who’s been holed up in the country’s embassy in London since June. Assange faces extradition to Sweden, where he’s wanted on a sexual misconduct charge.

The British Foreign Office made it clear Thursday that Ecuador’s decision does not alter Britain’s intention of fulfilling its legal obligation to extradite Assange. “We shall carry out that obligation,” it said in a statement. “The Ecuadorian government’s decision this afternoon does not change that.”

At a news conference in Quito, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said Ecuador had decided to grant asylum “because of the fears expressed by Mr. Assange, we believe that his fears are legitimate, and there are threats that he could face political persecution if the measures aren’t taken to avoid them.”

Patino said Ecuador failed to get guarantees from Britain, Sweden and the United States that Assange would not be extradited from Sweden to the United States. His supporters believe he could be tried for espionage in the United States over his whistle-blowing Web site’s release of hundreds of thousands of confidential military logs and diplomatic cables.

Full story here.

Wikileaks: Bradley Manning tortured, then offered plea deal in exchange for turning on Assange

Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months — and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait — under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

More on Bradley’s detention conditions

US authorities have stepped up their efforts to prosecute Julian Assange by offering Bradley Manning, the American soldier allegedly responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of government documents, the possibility of a plea bargain if he names the Wiki-Leaks founder as a fellow conspirator.

The development follows claims by Mr Assange’s supporters that a grand jury has been secretly empanelled in northern Virginia to consider indicting the WikiLeaks chief. But the US Justice Department has refused to comment on any grand jury activity.

As Mr Assange arrived last night at the East Anglia mansion after his release from a London prison on bail, he said he considered the threat of US legal action to be “extremely serious” even though “they have yet to be confirmed”. He told Sky News: “We have heard today from one of my US lawyers that there may be a US indictment for espionage for me coming from a secret grand jury investigation. “There are obviously serious attempts to take down the content by taking us down as an organisation and taking me down as an individual.

American officials view persuading Pte Manning to give evidence that Mr Assange encouraged him to disseminate classified Pentagon and State Department files as crucial to any prospect of extraditing him for a successful prosecution. To facilitate that, Pte Manning may be moved from military to civilian custody, they say. Since being charged in July with disseminating a US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed 17 people in Iraq including two Reuters employees, the soldier has been held at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. But members of his support network insist that he has not co-operated with the authorities since his arrest in May.

More on the plea deal

Wikileaks: Grand Jury convened against Assange

AssangeFrom capitalist media:

London (CNN) — A secret grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, is meeting to consider criminal charges in the WikiLeaks case, an attorney for the site’s founder, Julian Assange, told the Al-Jazeera network in an interview.

“We have heard from Swedish authorities there has been a secretly empaneled grand jury in Alexandria. … They are currently investigating this,” Mark Stephens told Al-Jazeera’s Sir David Frost on Sunday, referring to WikiLeaks. The site, which facilitates the disclosure of secret information, has been slowly releasing a trove of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables since November 28.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that he had authorized “significant” actions related to a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks’ publication of the cables but has declined to elaborate.

Assange is sought for questioning in connection with allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. He surrendered to British authorities last week.

“I think that the Americans are much more interested in terms of the WikiLeaks aspect of this,” Stephens told Al-Jazeera. He said it was his understanding that Swedish authorities have said that if Assange is extradited there, “they will defer their interest in him to the Americans. … It does seem to me that what we have here is nothing more than a holding charge.” The United States just wants Assange detained, he said, so “ultimately they can get their mitts on him.”

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Wikileaks: U.S. to charge Assange with espionage

AssangeFrom the capitalist media:

America is set to bring spying charges against jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, claims his lawyer.

US prosecutors are said to be finalising their case against the 39-year-old Australian behind the publication of more than 250,000 secret diplomatic messages.

Mr Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said she understands US charges are ‘imminent’.

He is likely to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime to receive national defence information if it is known to have been obtained illegally and could be used ‘to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.’
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Wikileaks: Julian Assange arrested

From Capitalist Media:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Tuesday in London on sexual assault charges, and is due to appear in a British court before the end of the day.

Scotland Yard confirmed in a statement that its said its extradition unit had “arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in Afghanistan visiting U.S. forces, said the arrest was “good news to me.”

The U.S. government is pursuing a criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that the Obama administration “will do everything that we can both to hold people accountable and to minimize the harm that will befall the American people.”

One of Assange’s lawyers said his team will fight extradition to Sweden, in part to avoid eventually ending up in the hands of U.S. authorities. “I think he will get a fair hearing here in Britain but I think our, his, prospects if he were ever to be returned to the US, which is a real threat, of a fair trial, is, in my view, nigh on impossible,” London lawyer Jennifer Robinson told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, told the Associated Press that Assange’s arrest “will not change our operation.”

Though the group has plans in place to release an emergency “insurance” file that includes some of the most important documents it has, Hrafnsson said WikiLeaks would only release those if someone on group’s staff were to face “grave matters.”

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