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

  • Michael Arditti on Night of the Golden Butterfly for the Daily Mail

    May 21, 2010

    Night of the Golden Butterfly reviewed by Michael Arditti for the Daily Mail, May 21, 2010

    Tariq Ali may still be best known as a 1960s political firebrand but, in latter years, he has reinvented himself as a novelist of distinction. Night of the Golden Butterfly is the fifth volume of his Islam Quintet. Having traced the tortuous relations between the Muslim world and the West in key historical eras, he now takes on the fraught task of tackling it in the present day.

    Switching between Pakistan, China and Europe, the central narrative concerns four men—Dara, Zahid, Plato and Confucius—who were intellectual and political comrades in 1960s Lahore and are thrown together more than 40 years later when Plato asks Dara to write his biography.

    Dara agrees, but his account focuses less on Plato  …

  • Insight with Tariq Ali: The Obama Syndrome at the Frontline Club

    October 15, 2010

    November 09, 2010, 7pm at the Frontline Club

    Insight with Tariq Ali: The Obama Syndrome

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    Contrary to what the world hoped Obama symbolised; redemption of a racist history, the overcoming of adversity, and the hope of a better, fairer future. Ali argues the wind that drove Obama into the White House was really the immaculate symbiosis of big money and big politics.

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  • ‘Lynched by the mob’

    December 30, 2006

    ‘Lynched by the mob’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, December 30, 2006

    You couldn’t call Saddam’s death even crude victor’s justice. It was an old-fashioned colonial hanging, as brutal as it was cynical

    It was symbolic that 2006 ended with a colonial hanging – most of it (bar the last moments) shown on state television in occupied Iraq. It has been that sort of year in the Arab world. After a trial so blatantly rigged that even Human Rights Watch—the largest single unit of the US human rights industry—had to condemn it as a total travesty. Judges were changed on Washington’s orders; defence lawyers were killed and the whole procedure resembled a well-orchestrated lynch mob.

    Where Nuremberg was a more dignified application of victor’s justice, Saddam’s trial has, till now, been the crudest and most grotesque. The  …