Monday, 15 October 2018 08:11

Assange communications to be partly restored: report Featured

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WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, who has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than six years, will have his communications with the external world partly restored following talks held between UN officials and the Ecuador Government.

ITV News quoted WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson as saying: “It is positive that through UN intervention Ecuador has partly ended the isolation of Mr Assange although it is of grave concern that his freedom to express his opinions is still limited.

“The UN has already declared Mr Assange a victim of arbitrary detention. This unacceptable situation must end.

“The UK government must abide by the UN’s ruling and guarantee that he can leave the Ecuadorian embassy without the threat of extradition to the United States.”

Hobart-based Greg Barns, a member of the WikiLeaks legal team, said: "This is a welcome development. However the major issue remains unresolved. The UK must undertake to guarantee that Julian will not be extradited to the US."

Ecuador blocked Assange from using the Internet and phones at the end of March, after he criticised alleged human rights abuses by Spain at the time when Catalonia launched protests for independence.

In September there were reports that Assange's lawyers were examining a proposal made jointly by Ecuador and Britain for him to leave the embassy.

WikiLeaks said in a statement: "Ecuador has told WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that it will remove the isolation regime imposed on him following meetings between two senior UN officials and Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno on Friday.”

It said the meetings were held in Ecuador between Moreno, the UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi and UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression David Kaye.

“Concern over Assange’s situation has also been raised by other UN bodies, as well as Human Rights Watch (who was refused access to him), Amnesty International, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, Ecuador’s Permanent Human Rights Commission, and public protests," the statement said.

“Assange was informed of Ecuador’s decision hours after Grandi and Kaye met President Moreno.”

The WikiLeaks publisher's troubles began when he visited Sweden in August 2010 to attend a conference where he was scheduled to give a talk. During that visit, he had sex with two women whom he met. The pair filed rape and molestation complaints against him later, claims that he denied.

He was questioned by Swedish authorities and cleared. He could have left the country then and there, but stayed for a while, in case the authorities decided to question him again.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest on 20 November 2010. On 27 November, Assange surrendered to authorities and appeared before a Westminster judge. He was granted bail in December after his backers provided £240,000 in cash and sureties.

A legal back and forth eventuated and went on until June 2012, when Swedish prosecutors sought his extradition.

Assange's lawyers, among them the world-renowned Australian Geoffrey Robertson, replied that if he agreed to the extradition request, then he could be flown to the US from there.

On 19 June 2012, he jumped bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, seeking asylum in the South American country. British police surrounded the building and blocked any chance of his leaving.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August 2012. He has had to stay inside the four walls of the embassy since then. He was granted Ecuadorian citizenship by a former president of the country, Rafael Correa.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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