Julian Assange’s lawyers have just filed a lawsuit against Ecuador for imposing draconian rules on his stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has lived as a de-facto prisoner since the year 2012. According to the terms of the legal filing, Assange asserts that his rights are being violated as the Embassy has refused Assange the ability to receive guests including his lawyers and Human Rights Watch general counsel Dinah PoKempner who sought to visit Assange and was prevented from doing so.
While recent reports have indicated that Assange’s internet access has been “partly restored”, a leaked document from the Embassy demonstrates that far from tossing him a lifeline, Ecuador is merely heaping further abuse onto a man who has been subjugated to more strain and stress than most individuals will ever have to face.
According to the leaked document, Assange’s ability to receive visitors will be severely restricted while those still wishing to see the Wikileak’s founder will be subjected to humiliating intrusions into their privacy. The document further states that Assange will be punished should he speak about political matters online. This effectively means that Assange is now being gagged by the Ecuadorian government from exercising his right to free speech which is guaranteed to other Ecuadorian citizens. Finally, Ecuador will now force Assange to somehow pay for his own medical bills while Ecuador has also threatened to put Assange’s pet cat into an animal shelter if Assange, a man with severe health problems is not able to take care of the animal according to the seemingly arbitrary standards that Ecuador has set out.
The ill-treatment of Assange who has been threatened with extra-judicial execution by top US officials including Hillary Clinton, threatened with arrest and likely extradition to the US by British officials and is now subject to humiliating and de-humanising demands from Ecuador is a man whose journalistic integrity is literally second to none. Not a single publication from Wikileaks has ever had to be retracted due to a factual error – something almost unheard of in modern journalism.
And yet while the world rightly mourns the reality that Jamal Khashoggi ultimately gave his life for his principles, albeit unexpectedly, while Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to reveal to the world the full “naked truth” about Khashoggi’s apparently gruesome murder at the hands of Saudi consular officials, the US, UK and Ecuador continue to openly conspire against the mental and physical health of Julian Assange. This is to say nothing about the persistent violation of the findings of the United Nations whose officials have stated that Assange must be immediately freed and compensated for his arbitrary and cruel detention.
And yet while the media outcry around Khashoggi’s murder continues to dominate headlines, Assange is largely a forgotten man, having been betrayed by not only the nation that gave him asylum but having been even more forcefully betrayed by nation’s whose populations he liberated from a culture of systematic corporate media lies.
Khashoggi was of course likewise no stranger to controversy in life as he was the man who conducted exclusive interviews with al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and early 2000s. And yet while the wider world accepted the journalistic integrity of Khashoggi’s interviews with a notorious terrorist, the same quarters seem unable to “forgive” Assange from publishing whistle-blowers’ accounts of the war criminality and corruption of major western powers including the United States.
While the world has grown used to the selective condemnation of terror groups, the selective grief and outrage that public opinion makers project is if anything an even greater example of unacceptable hypocrisy. If the world as a whole can almost unanimously accept that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an inexplicable crime which must be punished, why are there no alarms being sounded about the rapidly deteriorating condition of Julian Assange?
Of the many answers to this question, one lies at the heart of where Khashoggi was murdered. Turkey’s President is a fiercely independent leader who has long called out Saudi Arabia’s retrogressive stance in the region. In deciding to murder Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Riyadh should have known that they were bound to incur the wrath of a Turkish President who has never apologised for his geopolitical independence and global multi-polarity.
But while President Erdogan has vowed to bring Khashoggi’s killers to justice before the world, Assange has no such champion – he certainly doesn’t anymore. In 2012, when Assange was first welcomed to the Embassy, he was welcomed by progressive Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. Correa continues to speak out for Assange’s human rights, but the former President has now been silenced in his own home. Correa now lives in exile in Europe as his handpicked successor has decided to stab him in the back by attempting to prosecute him on self-evidently politicised corruption charges. Thus, Assange and the former Ecuadorian President who helped extend a lifeline to the besieged publisher and anti-war activist is now himself forced to live in exile, albeit under much different conditions than Assange.
When current Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno won his election in 2017, he was officially endorsed by Correa. Since then, Moreno has not only turned on his former colleague but he has debased the dignity of Ecuador before the world by imposing what amounts to further torturous conditions on Julian Assange on top of that which he was already subjected to. Under President Correa, Ecuador was a shining example of ethical geopolitical behaviour that held fast in the face of threats from vastly wealthier and more powerful regimes. Under Moreno, Ecuador is once again becoming a nation on its knees before these powerful nations.
With former President Correa out of power, Assange has lost his only major champion among heads of sate throughout the world. This leaves the Wikileaks founder uniformly isolated at a time when Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal demise should have led those with a conscience to speak out for Julian Assange before he meets a similar fate.