After hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for two months, Julian Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador yesterday to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on charges of two counts of sexual assault.
Assange wanted to take on the mightiest government in the world by publicizing massive amounts of sensitive U.S. government documents on his website WikiLeaks. In reality, he turned out to be nothing more than a self-centered, rather sordid little man with a martyr complex that has driven him to claim political asylum where none could possibly be justified.
Assange has grandiosely announced that he will be making a statement at 2 p.m. on Sunday outside the Ecuadorian embassy. Still, there is no doubt that he has managed to create an international conundrum involving at least three governments—the Ecuadorian, the British, and the Swedish—as well as that of the United States, the initial target for WikiLeaks.
Assange says he fears extradition to Sweden because that country might in turn extradite him to the U.S., where he preposterously claims that he would face torture and execution for treason.
Ironies abound in this case. Assange claims that WikiLeaks is a tool for freedom of expression. Yet the Ecuadoran government of Rafael Correa is notorious for allowing no free media. Assange claims that government transparency is his goal, yet the governments he is fighting—the Swedish, the British and the American—are solidly democratic, hardly something that can be said of the communist regime in Ecuador.
And as for seeking political asylum to escape charges of sexual assault, it is outrageous and against international conventions. Meanwhile, U.S. Private Bradley Manning, who trusted Assange and naively leaked thousands of U.S. military records on Afghanistan to Assange, will pay for it by spending the rest of his life in prison.
At this point all that remains of WikiLeaks, as one writer on its Facebook page noted, is “spam for donations and links about Assange’s personal mess.” Dating back to 2007, WikiLeaks for years sprung leaked documents on the world, such as Guantanamo Bay interrogation manuals, U.S. diplomatic cable traffic, and military documents relating to Iran and Afghanistan. However, since 2010, when Assange got into trouble in his adopted country of Sweden (where he had settled because whistle-blower protections are particularly strong), WikiLeaks has not posted anything of significance and is at the point of going broke.
British authorities have promised to arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy grounds, so Sunday could present a new twist in the story. Still, while WikiLeaks has risked American lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, chances are that Assange will not do anything to risk his own hide. It would not be like him.