Singapore bloggers protest licensing rules for news websites
June 8, 2013

More than 1,000 Singaporeans gathered at a downtown park to protest a regulation requiring websites that regularly publish news on the city state to be licensed.

The demonstration organized by representatives of social and political websites was held today at Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park, at the edge of the financial district. About 1,450 people have turned up so far, said Howard Lee, deputy chief editor of the Online Citizen, a Singapore social and political blog, and one of the organizers. Some waved placards calling on the government not to “tell me what to read,” while another said “our silence is not for sale.”

The Southeast Asian nation has seen at least two protests against government policies this year. The regulation introduced June 1 requiring news sites get a license has drawn criticism from opposition groups, while the government has said the rule doesn’t limit individuals’ freedom of expression online.

“Our purpose today is simply to ask the government to withdraw the Internet regulation they announced 11 days ago,” said Andrew Loh, editor of publichouse.sg, the first speaker at the event. “Citizen journalism has a place in Singapore.”

More than 150 Singapore websites and blogs blacked out their content in protest the licensing rules, the Straits Times reported yesterday. Some sites replaced their home pages with a black screen saying “Free My Internet;” others included information about today’s protest.

The new rules undercut Singapore’s status as a financial hub, Human Rights Watch said, urging the city to withdraw regulations it says discourage independent comment.

The regulations cast a chill over the city’s “robust and free-wheeling” online communities and limit Singaporeans’ access to independent media, Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at the New York-based HRW, said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Singapore dropped 14 places in a 2013 press-freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, ranking 149th out of 179 countries. It’s ranked one spot behind Russia, and just ahead of Iraq and Myanmar.

Today’s demonstration is the third incident where Singaporeans expressed unhappiness against government policies this year. Thousands of Singaporeans demonstrated in February and May against a government plan to increase the island’s population through immigration.

“The key to this is to make our voices heard to scrap this ruling, which goes against the right to information,” Lee said. “Through this gathering today, we also want to let people know how these regulations are going to affect them.”

Singapore’s Media Development Authority said last month certain websites must get a license and pay a $50,000 bond to be forfeited upon publication of “prohibited content” such as that which “undermines racial or religious harmony.” Yahoo! Inc.’s Singapore news website is among an initial list of 10 that will be subject to the rules.

News sites must have individual licenses if they post an average of at least one weekly article on the island’s news and current affairs over a period of two months, and have at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month over that period, according to the MDA.

The authority said operators of news sites are expected to comply within 24 hours with the government agency’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of standards.

Source

robert-cunningham
The People’s Record Memorial Day Dedication 
Remembering Pat Tillman: Lies shield truth behind veteran’s deathMay 28, 2012
Former NFL player Pat Tillman enlisted in the U.S. Army after the events of 9/11 in 2002. After completing several tours, he began to develop a strong anti-war sentiment and spoke to his fellow comrades about rallying against another George W. Bush term once he was stationed in Afghanistan. This disapproval grew when he met outspoken MIT professor Noam Chomsky, who could have helped elevate Tillman’s voice as a veteran against wars once he had completed his tour. Word about the veteran’s anti-imperialism stance spread, and government officials are believed to have ordered Tillman’s assassination under the guise of friendly fire.
According to the Army’s initial reports, Tillman was shot three times in the forehead and killed in an ambush near the Pakistan border on April 22, 2004. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Defense found that his death was caused when a platoon he was a part of was divided in two and shot at each other by mistake when an explosive went off nearby.The lieutenant general withheld details on Tillman’s death from his family for several months.
But army doctors who conducted the autopsy found the shots on Tillman’s forehead were too close together, suggesting he was murdered from a shooter a couple of yards away from him by an M-16 rifle, which the military does not use as a weapon. There were reports that snipers were in the second platoon group who used the explosive device to create chaos as the opportune time to shoot Tillman. No evidence of enemy fire was found, and no other soldier was injured or shot on the scene. Doctors who conducted the autopsy released a report to AP about their suspicion that the veteran was murdered, and that an investigation should begin immediately.
Three years later, on March 26, 2007, the Pentagon released a statement saying, “None of the investigations suggested that CPL Tillman’s death was anything other than accidental. Our review, as well as the investigation recently completed by Army CID, obtained no evidence contrary to those key findings.” His mother, Mary Tillman, commented, “”Nothing is going to bring Pat back. It’s about justice for Pat and justice for other soldiers. The nation has been deceived.”
The Obama administration has continued this war on whistleblowers, most notably with the detainment of Army soldier Bradley Manning who passed on classified government cables to shine light on war crimes and human rights violations all over the world. Tillman was approaching as a notable war opponent who would have brought his anti-war message home if he had not been gunned down by the U.S. Army.
So as we commemorate men and women who have given their lives in armed forces, we must question the legitimacy of the government that subjected Tillman and thousands of others to war in the first place. We must recognize the global bloodshed continuing to take place at the hands American imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries beyond. The troops must be brought home, and with the solidarity of veterans and servicemembers, we must bring an end to all wars. 
- G. Razo
Click here for a complete list of The People’s Record’s Memorial Day dedications.
— — — — —
From our 2012 Memorial Day posts.

The People’s Record Memorial Day Dedication 

Remembering Pat Tillman: Lies shield truth behind veteran’s death
May 28, 2012

Former NFL player Pat Tillman enlisted in the U.S. Army after the events of 9/11 in 2002. After completing several tours, he began to develop a strong anti-war sentiment and spoke to his fellow comrades about rallying against another George W. Bush term once he was stationed in Afghanistan. This disapproval grew when he met outspoken MIT professor Noam Chomsky, who could have helped elevate Tillman’s voice as a veteran against wars once he had completed his tour. Word about the veteran’s anti-imperialism stance spread, and government officials are believed to have ordered Tillman’s assassination under the guise of friendly fire.

According to the Army’s initial reports, Tillman was shot three times in the forehead and killed in an ambush near the Pakistan border on April 22, 2004. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Defense found that his death was caused when a platoon he was a part of was divided in two and shot at each other by mistake when an explosive went off nearby.The lieutenant general withheld details on Tillman’s death from his family for several months.

But army doctors who conducted the autopsy found the shots on Tillman’s forehead were too close together, suggesting he was murdered from a shooter a couple of yards away from him by an M-16 rifle, which the military does not use as a weapon. There were reports that snipers were in the second platoon group who used the explosive device to create chaos as the opportune time to shoot Tillman. No evidence of enemy fire was found, and no other soldier was injured or shot on the scene. Doctors who conducted the autopsy released a report to AP about their suspicion that the veteran was murdered, and that an investigation should begin immediately.

Three years later, on March 26, 2007, the Pentagon released a statement saying, “None of the investigations suggested that CPL Tillman’s death was anything other than accidental. Our review, as well as the investigation recently completed by Army CID, obtained no evidence contrary to those key findings.” His mother, Mary Tillman, commented, “”Nothing is going to bring Pat back. It’s about justice for Pat and justice for other soldiers. The nation has been deceived.”

The Obama administration has continued this war on whistleblowers, most notably with the detainment of Army soldier Bradley Manning who passed on classified government cables to shine light on war crimes and human rights violations all over the world. Tillman was approaching as a notable war opponent who would have brought his anti-war message home if he had not been gunned down by the U.S. Army.

So as we commemorate men and women who have given their lives in armed forces, we must question the legitimacy of the government that subjected Tillman and thousands of others to war in the first place. We must recognize the global bloodshed continuing to take place at the hands American imperialism in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other countries beyond. The troops must be brought home, and with the solidarity of veterans and servicemembers, we must bring an end to all wars. 

- G. Razo

Click here for a complete list of The People’s Record’s Memorial Day dedications.

— — — — —

From our 2012 Memorial Day posts.

Ethiopian journalist faces life in prisonJune 29, 2012 
An Ethiopian journalist and blogger faces life imprisonment after being convicted of terrorism charges at the Lideta Federal High Court in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday.
Eskinder Nega was arrested in September 2011 for publishing articles online about the Arab Spring and questioning the Ethiopian government’s use of anti-terrorism laws.
US news service Bloomberg reported that Judge Endeshaw Adane said Nega and five other journalists, who were tried in absentia, had used ‘the guise of freedom’ to ‘attempt to incite violence and overthrow the constitutional order’.
According to Bloomberg the journalists were accused of having links to a US-based opposition group, Ginot 7, an organisation labelled ‘terrorist’ by the government.
Nega is the latest journalist to be tried under what human rights groups describe as ‘draconian’ anti-terror legislation introduced in 2009 by the Ethiopian government. Activists fear the law is being used to stifle legitimate political dissent and have reported that more than 150 people have been arrested using the legislation  in the last year including journalists, politicians and students.
Source

Ethiopian journalist faces life in prison
June 29, 2012 

An Ethiopian journalist and blogger faces life imprisonment after being convicted of terrorism charges at the Lideta Federal High Court in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday.

Eskinder Nega was arrested in September 2011 for publishing articles online about the Arab Spring and questioning the Ethiopian government’s use of anti-terrorism laws.

US news service Bloomberg reported that Judge Endeshaw Adane said Nega and five other journalists, who were tried in absentia, had used ‘the guise of freedom’ to ‘attempt to incite violence and overthrow the constitutional order’.

According to Bloomberg the journalists were accused of having links to a US-based opposition group, Ginot 7, an organisation labelled ‘terrorist’ by the government.

Nega is the latest journalist to be tried under what human rights groups describe as ‘draconian’ anti-terror legislation introduced in 2009 by the Ethiopian government. Activists fear the law is being used to stifle legitimate political dissent and have reported that more than 150 people have been arrested using the legislation  in the last year including journalists, politicians and students.

Source

Christine Assange Interview Pt. 2: Asylum in Ecuador and the future of Wikileaks
 June 28, 2012
As Wikileaks founder Julian Assange enters the ninth day in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, his mother, Christine Assange continues to be an outspoken advocate for free press and free information. Christine herself has become an information powerhouse of sorts, spending her days recapping facts of the case to various media outlets because information is power and will be the ultimate key to Julian’s freedom, she insists.
“What we’ve got is an information war,” Christine said. “People can support Julian on the principle of the matter, but they are much more authentic if they can argue the full facts.”
She speaks to her son regularly, reassuring that he is in “good spirits” and being treated very well in the embassy. Christine adds that surprisingly, he’s more relaxed than she’s seen him in a long time.
Even with financial blockades, extradition threats, house arrest without any criminal charges and even politicians advocating his assassination, Julian still has a “fighting spirit,” Christine said. Supporters around the world are powering him to keep Wikileaks alive to spearhead the fight for transparency, she said. The world needs whistleblowers like Julian exposing horrific American war crimes, especially in the time of the Barack Obama, a “rogue dictator.”
“Through the Wikileaks cables, the United States revealed themselves to be global tyrants,” Christine said. “Because they couldn’t discredit the cables, they had to pressure for a financial blockade on Wikileaks.”
Since December 2010, MasterCard, Visa, Bank of America, PayPal and Western Union have all prevented customers from donating to Wikileaks, blocking 95 percent of its donations.
During Julian’s stay at the embassy, Christine said he’ll be working on the case fighting against Valitor, an Icelandic company that processes Wikileaks’ donations, over suspension of financial services. The case is the first of many against various other banking blocks. The financial blockades have cost Wikileaks nearly $20 million in donations.
Ecuador’s ambassadors have been welcoming of Julian, and hopes of her son being approved for political asylum are high; however, she still stresses the importance of political pressure.
In the nine days since Julian has took refuge in the embassy, more than 10,000 emails of support have poured into Ecuador’s US and UK embassies. Just Foreign Policy, a civil liberties activist group, has also sent a letter advocating asylum for Julian to Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa. The letter included signatures of directors Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, activist Noam Chomsky and actor Danny Glover.
Christine urges free information advocates to write a letter of support, spread information online, but most importantly, take the fight for information out onto the streets. If we don’t fight for a free press, we will lose it altogether, she said.
“Get off Twitter, and get to that rally,” Christine said. “We need bodies in the streets. There’s lots of support online, but the average person doesn’t see that. We need thousands of people on the street supporting what Julian is doing.”
If asylum isn’t granted, Christine said her son will apply for political asylum elsewhere and appeal to the Court of Human Rights. But even if Julian ends up in the hands of the United States justice system, she assures Wikileaks will continue.
“Pandora’s box is open and will not be shut,” Christine said. “This is the new way information is going to be spread.” -G. Razo

Christine Assange Interview Pt. 2: Asylum in Ecuador and the future of Wikileaks

June 28, 2012

As Wikileaks founder Julian Assange enters the ninth day in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, his mother, Christine Assange continues to be an outspoken advocate for free press and free information. Christine herself has become an information powerhouse of sorts, spending her days recapping facts of the case to various media outlets because information is power and will be the ultimate key to Julian’s freedom, she insists.

“What we’ve got is an information war,” Christine said. “People can support Julian on the principle of the matter, but they are much more authentic if they can argue the full facts.”

She speaks to her son regularly, reassuring that he is in “good spirits” and being treated very well in the embassy. Christine adds that surprisingly, he’s more relaxed than she’s seen him in a long time.

Even with financial blockades, extradition threats, house arrest without any criminal charges and even politicians advocating his assassination, Julian still has a “fighting spirit,” Christine said. Supporters around the world are powering him to keep Wikileaks alive to spearhead the fight for transparency, she said. The world needs whistleblowers like Julian exposing horrific American war crimes, especially in the time of the Barack Obama, a “rogue dictator.”

“Through the Wikileaks cables, the United States revealed themselves to be global tyrants,” Christine said. “Because they couldn’t discredit the cables, they had to pressure for a financial blockade on Wikileaks.”

Since December 2010, MasterCard, Visa, Bank of America, PayPal and Western Union have all prevented customers from donating to Wikileaks, blocking 95 percent of its donations.

During Julian’s stay at the embassy, Christine said he’ll be working on the case fighting against Valitor, an Icelandic company that processes Wikileaks’ donations, over suspension of financial services. The case is the first of many against various other banking blocks. The financial blockades have cost Wikileaks nearly $20 million in donations.

Ecuador’s ambassadors have been welcoming of Julian, and hopes of her son being approved for political asylum are high; however, she still stresses the importance of political pressure.

In the nine days since Julian has took refuge in the embassy, more than 10,000 emails of support have poured into Ecuador’s US and UK embassies. Just Foreign Policy, a civil liberties activist group, has also sent a letter advocating asylum for Julian to Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa. The letter included signatures of directors Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, activist Noam Chomsky and actor Danny Glover.

Christine urges free information advocates to write a letter of support, spread information online, but most importantly, take the fight for information out onto the streets. If we don’t fight for a free press, we will lose it altogether, she said.

“Get off Twitter, and get to that rally,” Christine said. “We need bodies in the streets. There’s lots of support online, but the average person doesn’t see that. We need thousands of people on the street supporting what Julian is doing.”

If asylum isn’t granted, Christine said her son will apply for political asylum elsewhere and appeal to the Court of Human Rights. But even if Julian ends up in the hands of the United States justice system, she assures Wikileaks will continue.

“Pandora’s box is open and will not be shut,” Christine said. “This is the new way information is going to be spread.” -G. Razo

"A life in Ecuador - these are friendly, generous people - is much better than a life behind bars in the United States … under Guantanamo Bay-like restrictions which they routinely apply to people accused of espionage. You can’t speak, can’t communicate, because I might communicate some password or something. And this is a routine matter that is applied in these sorts of circumstances.
[Ecuador’s] free speech issues are certainly no worse than the ones in the UK - and this is a country with hundreds of secret gag orders, so let’s keep things in perspective. But I would enjoy campaigning for the rights of journalists in Ecuador.
There’s been a lot of tussles between the US and Ecuador, which is one of the reasons why Ecuador, I presume, would be happy to grant me asylum because they understand the difficulties when you square off with the United States.” - Julian Assange in his first interview from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Listen to the interview here. Read the transcript here. 

"A life in Ecuador - these are friendly, generous people - is much better than a life behind bars in the United States … under Guantanamo Bay-like restrictions which they routinely apply to people accused of espionage. You can’t speak, can’t communicate, because I might communicate some password or something. And this is a routine matter that is applied in these sorts of circumstances.

[Ecuador’s] free speech issues are certainly no worse than the ones in the UK - and this is a country with hundreds of secret gag orders, so let’s keep things in perspective. But I would enjoy campaigning for the rights of journalists in Ecuador.

There’s been a lot of tussles between the US and Ecuador, which is one of the reasons why Ecuador, I presume, would be happy to grant me asylum because they understand the difficulties when you square off with the United States.” - Julian Assange in his first interview from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Listen to the interview here. 
Read the transcript here. 

Wikileaks launches crusade against financial blockadeJune 21, 2012
The world`s most famous whistleblowing website WikiLeaks is suing Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, over suspension of financial services. The hearing is taking place before the Icelandic courts in Reykjavik on Thursday.
In a statement published on its website WikiLeaks announced the case is the first in a series of suits over the “unlawful” banking blockage.
WikiLeaks asserts that the financial blockade has been imposed by Visa Iceland on DataCell, the Iceland-based company processing donations for WikiLeaks, after the site published leaks in December 2010.
“Julian Assange was working in Iceland the winter of 2009-2010. After that, WikiLeaks actually produced a tremendously important leak which exposed corruption within Iceland. It shed light onto why the entire banking system of Iceland collapsed in 2008,” WikiLeaks press spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson explained to RT. He added that WikiLeaks has been “starved of 95 per cent” of its funds.
DataCell signed an agreement with Valitor in June 2011, but after a short period of processing donations for WikiLeaks, Valitor terminated the agreement and closed the gateway, even though it had been previously tested and certified by the company.
Valitor has cited alleged violations by Datacell for collecting donations for a third party. Datacell, however, insists that Valitor was fully aware of the final recipient of donations.
Source

Wikileaks launches crusade against financial blockade
June 21, 2012

The world`s most famous whistleblowing website WikiLeaks is suing Valitor, formerly VISA Iceland, over suspension of financial services. The hearing is taking place before the Icelandic courts in Reykjavik on Thursday.

In a statement published on its website WikiLeaks announced the case is the first in a series of suits over the “unlawful” banking blockage.

WikiLeaks asserts that the financial blockade has been imposed by Visa Iceland on DataCell, the Iceland-based company processing donations for WikiLeaks, after the site published leaks in December 2010.

“Julian Assange was working in Iceland the winter of 2009-2010. After that, WikiLeaks actually produced a tremendously important leak which exposed corruption within Iceland. It shed light onto why the entire banking system of Iceland collapsed in 2008,” WikiLeaks press spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson explained to RT. He added that WikiLeaks has been “starved of 95 per cent” of its funds.

DataCell signed an agreement with Valitor in June 2011, but after a short period of processing donations for WikiLeaks, Valitor terminated the agreement and closed the gateway, even though it had been previously tested and certified by the company.

Valitor has cited alleged violations by Datacell for collecting donations for a third party. Datacell, however, insists that Valitor was fully aware of the final recipient of donations.

Source

Julian Assange’s right to asylumJune 20, 2012

If one asks current or former WikiLeaks associates what their greatest fear is, almost none cites prosecution by their own country. Most trust their own nation’s justice system to recognize that they have committed no crime. The primary fear is being turned over to the US. That is the crucial context for understanding Julian Assange's 16-month fight to avoid extradition to Sweden, a fight that led him to seek asylum, Tuesday, in the London Embassy of Ecuador.


The evidence that the US seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange is substantial. There is no question that the Obama justice department has convened an active grand jury to investigate whether WikiLeaks violated the draconian Espionage Act of 1917. Key senators from President Obama’s party, including Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, have publicly called for his prosecution under that statute. A leaked email from the security firm Stratfor – hardly a dispositive source, but still probative – indicated that a sealed indictment has already been obtained against him. Prominent American figures in both parties have demanded Assange’s lifelong imprisonment, called him a terrorist, and even advocated his assassination.
For several reasons, Assange has long feared that the US would be able to coerce Sweden into handing him over far more easily than if he were in Britain. For one, smaller countries such as Sweden are generally more susceptible to American pressure and bullying. 
For another, that country has a disturbing history of lawlessly handing over suspects to the US. A 2006 UN ruling found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for helping the CIA render two suspected terrorists to Egypt, where they were brutally tortured (both individuals, asylum-seekers in Sweden, were ultimately found to be innocent of any connection to terrorism and received a monetary settlement from the Swedish government). 
Perhaps most disturbingly of all, Swedish law permits extreme levels of secrecy in judicial proceedings and oppressive pre-trial conditions, enabling any Swedish-US transactions concerning Assange to be conducted beyond public scrutiny. Ironically, even the US State Department condemned Sweden’s “restrictive conditions for prisoners held in pretrial custody”, including severe restrictions on their communications with the outside world.
Assange’s fear of ending up in the clutches of the US is plainly rational and well-grounded. One need only look at the treatment over the last decade of foreign nationals accused of harming American national security to know that’s true; such individuals are still routinely imprisoned for lengthy periods without any charges or due process. Or consider the treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of leaking to WikiLeaks: a formal UN investigation found that his pre-trial conditions of severe solitary confinement were “cruel, inhuman and degrading”, and he now faces capital charges of aiding al-Qaida. The Obama administration’s unprecedented obsession with persecuting whistleblowers and preventing transparency – what even generally supportive, liberal magazines call ”Obama’s war on whistleblowers” – makes those concerns all the more valid.
No responsible person should have formed a judgment one way or the other as to whether Assange is guilty of anything in Sweden. He has not even been charged, let alone tried or convicted, of sexual assault, and he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. The accusations made against him are serious ones, and deserve to be taken seriously and accorded a fair and legal resolution.
But the WikiLeaks founder, like everyone else, is fully entitled to invoke all of his legal rights, and it’s profoundly reckless and irresponsible to suggest, as some have, that he has done anything wrong by doing so. Seeking asylum on the grounds of claimed human rights violations is a longstanding and well-recognized right in international law. It is unseemly, at best, to insist that he forego his rights in order to herd him as quickly as possible to Sweden.  
Assange is not a fugitive and has not fled. Everyone knows where he is. If Ecuador rejects his asylum request, he will be right back in the hands of British authorities, who will presumably extradite him to Sweden without delay. At every step of the process, he has adhered to, rather than violated, the rule of law. His asylum request of yesterday is no exception.
Julian Assange has sparked intense personal animosity, especially in media circles – a revealing irony, given that he has helped to bring about more transparency and generated more newsworthy scoops than all media outlets combined over the last several years. That animosity often leads media commentators to toss aside their professed beliefs and principles out of an eagerness to see him shamed or punished.


But ego clashes and media personality conflicts are pitifully trivial when weighed against what is at stake in this case: both for Assange personally and for the greater cause of transparency. If he’s guilty of any crimes in Sweden, he should be held to account. But until then, he has every right to invoke the legal protections available to everyone else. Even more so, as a foreign national accused of harming US national security, he has every reason to want to avoid ending up in the travesty known as the American judicial system. -Glenn Greenwald
Source

Julian Assange’s right to asylum
June 20, 2012

If one asks current or former WikiLeaks associates what their greatest fear is, almost none cites prosecution by their own country. Most trust their own nation’s justice system to recognize that they have committed no crime. The primary fear is being turned over to the US. That is the crucial context for understanding Julian Assange's 16-month fight to avoid extradition to Sweden, a fight that led him to seek asylum, Tuesday, in the London Embassy of Ecuador.

The evidence that the US seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange is substantial. There is no question that the Obama justice department has convened an active grand jury to investigate whether WikiLeaks violated the draconian Espionage Act of 1917. Key senators from President Obama’s party, including Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, have publicly called for his prosecution under that statute. A leaked email from the security firm Stratfor – hardly a dispositive source, but still probative – indicated that a sealed indictment has already been obtained against him. Prominent American figures in both parties have demanded Assange’s lifelong imprisonment, called him a terrorist, and even advocated his assassination.

For several reasons, Assange has long feared that the US would be able to coerce Sweden into handing him over far more easily than if he were in Britain. For one, smaller countries such as Sweden are generally more susceptible to American pressure and bullying. 

For another, that country has a disturbing history of lawlessly handing over suspects to the US. A 2006 UN ruling found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for helping the CIA render two suspected terrorists to Egypt, where they were brutally tortured (both individuals, asylum-seekers in Sweden, were ultimately found to be innocent of any connection to terrorism and received a monetary settlement from the Swedish government). 

Perhaps most disturbingly of all, Swedish law permits extreme levels of secrecy in judicial proceedings and oppressive pre-trial conditions, enabling any Swedish-US transactions concerning Assange to be conducted beyond public scrutiny. Ironically, even the US State Department condemned Sweden’s “restrictive conditions for prisoners held in pretrial custody”, including severe restrictions on their communications with the outside world.

Assange’s fear of ending up in the clutches of the US is plainly rational and well-grounded. One need only look at the treatment over the last decade of foreign nationals accused of harming American national security to know that’s true; such individuals are still routinely imprisoned for lengthy periods without any charges or due process. Or consider the treatment of Bradley Manning, accused of leaking to WikiLeaks: a formal UN investigation found that his pre-trial conditions of severe solitary confinement were “cruel, inhuman and degrading”, and he now faces capital charges of aiding al-Qaida. The Obama administration’s unprecedented obsession with persecuting whistleblowers and preventing transparency – what even generally supportive, liberal magazines call ”Obama’s war on whistleblowers” – makes those concerns all the more valid.

No responsible person should have formed a judgment one way or the other as to whether Assange is guilty of anything in Sweden. He has not even been charged, let alone tried or convicted, of sexual assault, and he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. The accusations made against him are serious ones, and deserve to be taken seriously and accorded a fair and legal resolution.

But the WikiLeaks founder, like everyone else, is fully entitled to invoke all of his legal rights, and it’s profoundly reckless and irresponsible to suggest, as some have, that he has done anything wrong by doing so. Seeking asylum on the grounds of claimed human rights violations is a longstanding and well-recognized right in international law. It is unseemly, at best, to insist that he forego his rights in order to herd him as quickly as possible to Sweden.  

Assange is not a fugitive and has not fled. Everyone knows where he is. If Ecuador rejects his asylum request, he will be right back in the hands of British authorities, who will presumably extradite him to Sweden without delay. At every step of the process, he has adhered to, rather than violated, the rule of law. His asylum request of yesterday is no exception.

Julian Assange has sparked intense personal animosity, especially in media circles – a revealing irony, given that he has helped to bring about more transparency and generated more newsworthy scoops than all media outlets combined over the last several years. That animosity often leads media commentators to toss aside their professed beliefs and principles out of an eagerness to see him shamed or punished.

But ego clashes and media personality conflicts are pitifully trivial when weighed against what is at stake in this case: both for Assange personally and for the greater cause of transparency. If he’s guilty of any crimes in Sweden, he should be held to account. But until then, he has every right to invoke the legal protections available to everyone else. Even more so, as a foreign national accused of harming US national security, he has every reason to want to avoid ending up in the travesty known as the American judicial system. -Glenn Greenwald

Source

Julian Assange seeks asylum in EcuadorJune 19, 2012
WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has asked for political asylum in Ecuador and officials in the South American nation are considering his request, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.
"Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in Quito.

Assange faces extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes after Britain’s top court said last week that it had rejected a legal request to reconsider his case.
Assange and his supporters fear when he arrives in Sweden, he will be handed over to the United States to face espionage and conspiracy charges.
Source

Julian Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador
June 19, 2012

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has asked for political asylum in Ecuador and officials in the South American nation are considering his request, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.

"Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in Quito.

Assange faces extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes after Britain’s top court said last week that it had rejected a legal request to reconsider his case.

Assange and his supporters fear when he arrives in Sweden, he will be handed over to the United States to face espionage and conspiracy charges.

Source

New Wikileaks cables reveal U.S. targeting Julian Assange
THE WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange remains the target of a US government criminal investigation and the subject of US-Australian intelligence exchanges, Australian diplomatic cables obtained by the Herald reveal.
Australian diplomats have closely monitored the US Department of Justice investigation into WikiLeaks over the past 18 months. The embassy in Washington reported ”a broad range of possible charges are under consideration, including espionage and conspiracy”.
The diplomats dismiss Mr Assange’s claims that the US investigation is politically motivated retribution for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked US military and diplomatic reports. They instead highlight US prosecutors’ claims that the alleged leaker, Bradley Manning, dealt directly with Mr Assange and ”data-mined” secret US databases ”guided by WikiLeaks’ list of ‘most wanted’ leaks”.

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New Wikileaks cables reveal U.S. targeting Julian Assange

THE WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange remains the target of a US government criminal investigation and the subject of US-Australian intelligence exchanges, Australian diplomatic cables obtained by the Herald reveal.

Australian diplomats have closely monitored the US Department of Justice investigation into WikiLeaks over the past 18 months. The embassy in Washington reported ”a broad range of possible charges are under consideration, including espionage and conspiracy”.

The diplomats dismiss Mr Assange’s claims that the US investigation is politically motivated retribution for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked US military and diplomatic reports. They instead highlight US prosecutors’ claims that the alleged leaker, Bradley Manning, dealt directly with Mr Assange and ”data-mined” secret US databases ”guided by WikiLeaks’ list of ‘most wanted’ leaks”.