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

  • Feeling Good

    August 9, 2013

    Mercifully, I was in South India for two events that showed the English at their worst: a long-delayed sporting triumph and the arrival of George Alexander Louis. So I missed the response to Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon and the eruption that greeted the birth of yet another royal. Before these there was the ‘multicultural triumph’ of the Olympics, followed recently by the ‘illegal immigrant’ buses and non-white citizens being stopped at railway stations. Even the UKIP leader denounced this as not being ‘the British way’.

    ‘Feel-good’ moments never last long; underneath the decay continues. Amazon is permitted to destroy the bookshops while Google, Yahoo et al hand over encrypted lists of their users to the intelligence services. Much simpler than paying taxes. The assault on education; the continuing privatisation of the NHS; the never-ending propaganda directed against benefit claimants; the  …

  • ‘Try and disarm us, if you can’

    April 15, 1999

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    Tariq Ali finds old friends and new enemies in Lahore

    Islamabad remains the official capital, but these days real power in Pakistan is exercised from the Punjabi capital of Lahore. This city, dry, warm and abundant, where I spent the first 20 years of my life and which I still love, is always changing, usually for the worse. The old Mall at its lower end, near Kim’s Gun, was once the haunt of bohemians of every sort. Poets, artists, left-wing intellectuals, film directors could be seen at their tables in the Coffee House, cursing the dictator of the day or discussing the merits of blank verse as they dipped their samosas in a mint-chilli compote and sipped tea throughout  …

  • V40 Philosophy at the Tate Modern: Tariq Ali In Defense of Philosophy

    October 29, 2010

    Following a screening of Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein at the Tate Modern on Friday 22 October, Tariq Ali discussed the work of Jarman and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the writing and making of Ali’s series of filmic philosophers’ lives with Jonathan Derbyshire, culture editor of the New Statesman. This event, celebrating Verso’s 40th year of publishing, was the first in the In Defense of Philosophy Series hosted by the Tate Modern.

    In Defense of Philosophy Part 2 will take place in February 2011 with a screening of Tariq Ali’s Spinoza: The Apostle of Reason with a very special surprise guest …