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

  • ‘Imperialism and democracy don’t mix’

    January 1, 2008

    ‘Imperialism and democracy don’t mix’, an interview with International Socialist Review, Jan-Feb 2008

    What role is the U.S. trying to play since 9/11 in Pakistan?

    Musharraf has succeeded in isolating himself from the population, including from sections of the elite, because he’s played his cards very badly. When he came in—like all these military rulers who run countries—he pledged a whole set of reforms. He was the first Pakistani military dictator who didn’t censor the press or ban political parties and trade unions. He said all that will carry on as before, which is unusual.

    In fact, in the first years of his rule the media flourished. It was much freer than it had been even under civilian governments. A whole number of television stations sprang up, which are still in operation. This is one of the ironies  …

  • Diary: Pakistan

    June 19, 2003

    Tariq Ali on Pakistan for The London Review of Books, June 19, 2003

    May and June are the worst months to visit Pakistan: temperatures in Lahore can go up to 120°F, and I still remember the melting tar on the road, which virtually doubled the time it took to bike home from school. I had been invited, however, to give the Eqbal Ahmed Memorial Lectures in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. Ahmed—whose dream of setting up a serious postgraduate university in Pakistan remains unfulfilled—died in May 1999. read more

  • ‘Iraq’s destiny still rests between God, blood and oil’

    January 16, 2006

    ‘Iraq’s destiny still rests between God, blood and oil’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, January 16, 2006

    Had the Shia parties decided to give up their own struggles to resist the occupation, it would have been over long ago

    By year three of Iraq’s occupation, for most western citizens the fact that they live in a world subjugated by lies, half-truths and suppressed facts has become part of everyday life. In Iraq, a preoccupation for many of the country’s citizens, including some who initially supported the war, is whether their country will survive or whether the result of western recolonisation will soon be disintegration. A Hobbesian landscape today could lead to a tripartite division tomorrow.

    In the last half of the preceding century, the great Iraqi poet, Muhammad Mahdi al-Jawahiri, himself the son of a Shia cleric  …