Ecuador grants political asylum to Julian Assange—Tariq Ali speaks to Russia Today

Today, the Ecuadorian government announced that it is granting political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has spent the last two months living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office is not only continuing to bar Assange from leaving the country (they claim their obligation is to extradite Assange to Sweden), but has also threatened to storm the Ecudorian embassy. “Under British law we can give them a week’s notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection,” said a Foreign Office spokesman. “But that decision has not yet been taken. We are not going to do this overnight. We want to stress that we want a diplomatically agreeable solution.”

In response to these threats, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said simply, “We are not a British colony.”

Since last night, pro-Assange protesters have been gathering outside the U.K. embassy to show their support for the “freedom fighter” and their disapproval of Britain’s response to Ecuador’s decision, which could have far-reaching consequences: If Britain succeeds in sending Assange to Sweden, where he faces questioning for alleged charges of sexual misconduct, he could then be extradited to the United States.

As the founder of WikiLeaks, Assange has played a key role in the fight for transparency, releasing secret documents such as the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary, the Collateral Murder video, U.S. State Department diplomatic cables, files pertaining to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and, most recently, the Syria Files.

While the standoff between Ecuador and Britain continues, Patino remains hopeful that British authorities will honor their decision. As he said in a statement released after the decision was announced, ”We trust that the UK will offer as soon as possible the guarantee for the safe passage of asylum for Mr. Assange and they will respect those international agreements they have signed in the past.”

This tension between Ecuador and Britain is nothing new—Ecuador, led by President Rafael Correa, is part of the left bloc in Latin America, which Tariq Ali analyzes in Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope. Just hours before Ecuador’s announcement, Ali spoke to Russia Today about Assange:

There is no telling when a solution will be reached, but in the meantime, there is no shortage of protesters willing to spend the night on the sidewalk, risking arrest outside of Ecuador’s London embassy, to show Assange that his supporters are still behind him.

From the archive

  • Lincoln in His Lover’s Nightgown

    January 31, 2013

    Tariq Ali for London Review of Books, January 30th 2013

    Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln is consciously restrictive, concentrating as it does on how the vote was manipulated and the 13th Amendment passed, but Mrs Lincoln is not exactly missing from the movie. So why didn’t the scriptwriter Tony Kushner, a staunch gay rights activist who ‘personally believe[s] that there is some reason to speculate that Lincoln might have been bisexual or gay’, include any of that speculation in the film? There is a great deal of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Lincoln slept with a number of men. In an interview with Gold Derby, Kushner said:

    I wanted to write about a very specific moment and I chose this moment and I don’t feel that there’s any evidence at this particular moment that Lincoln was having sex with anybody… He  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘Tortured Civilizations: Islam and the West’

    September 1, 2004

    ‘Tortured Civilizations: Islam and the West’ by Tariq Ali for The Walrus, September 2004

    In the brutal aftermath of the war on Iraq, a genuine clash of civilizations has emerged. Could it have been avoided?

    During the first half of the 20th century, when the British still occupied India and a nationalist movement had erupted against the British Empire, sundry U.S. journalists were dispatched to observe the scene and interview Mahatma Gandhi. “What,” one of them asked the Indian leader, “do you think of Western civilization?” The old fox smiled. “It would be a good idea,” he replied. Seventy-five years later, Iraqis suffering the abuses of an oppressive first year under the U.S. occupation would probably endorse Gandhi’s sentiment.

    To sell the Iraq instalment of the war against terrorism, the U.S. had justified the war as necessary to  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘What happened next? Student protests’

    January 4, 2011

    ‘What happened next? Student protests’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, December 27 2010

    A friend in France, watching the London student demos on an English website, emails “. . . unlike France, there’s no tribal, institutionalised memory of struggle where you are marching. Does that make this moment in Britain more fiery and unpredictable? I thought, watching the website, that maybe it might.” There’s no memory of revolution in modern Britain, but there is a historical memory of what the students did in 1968, a memory kept alive by images, songs and books and there is the memory of the anti-poll tax rebellion that did for Thatcher.

    Mixing old wines with new (Château Thatcher 1979, with the 1997 Nouveau Blair or the plastic-bottled Cameron-Clegg 2010) is always a mistake. Wisdoms old and young, however, mix admirably well. That is  …