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Assange Makes Defiant Speech

Assange Makes Defiant Speech Olivia Harris, Reuters / Landov

First appearance in two months.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made his first public appearance in two months Sunday after securing diplomatic asylum in Ecuador. Assange took refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London in a bid to escape extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual misconduct. Speaking from the balcony of the embassy, Assange called on the U.S. to end its “witch hunt” against WikiLeaks, thanked supporters, and credited them with stopping the British police from seizing him. “To my family and my children who have been denied their father, forgive me; we will be reunited soon,” Assange said. Ecuador granted Assange diplomatic asylum Thursday.

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WIKILEAKS

Assange Stuck in Embassy

Assange Stuck in Embassy Sang Tan / AP Photo

Could be for up to a year.

It's tough being the man behind the world's biggest leak network. Julian Assange, head of Wikileaks, said on Thursday that he will have to wait six months to a year in Ecuador's embassy in London, as he waits for a deal to secure his release. Assange is wanted in Sweden, where he has been accused of an alleged sexual assault—but he has maintained he will be extradited to the U.S. if he goes to Sweden. Since Britain ordered his extradition last month, Assange has been hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy since that nation offered him asylum.

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Rally

Assange Makes His Case

Like a modern-day Eva Perón, Julian Assange emerged to speak from the balcony of Ecuador's London embassy. Peter Jukes on the WikiLeaks founders’ theatrical cry for freedom.

Dressed in a light blue shirt and red tie, his trademark white hair cropped short, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dramatically stepped into the world’s spotlight again today, addressing supporters—and the global media—from a small balcony on the first floor of the Ecuadoran Embassy in London’s plush Knightsbridge district.

Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media and his supporters Sunday from the balcony of the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. (Carl Court, AFP / Getty Images)

This was Assange’s first public appearance since he took refuge in the embassy two months ago, having failed in a protracted appeal against extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault. Assange, 41, thanked his supporters, who numbered several hundred held behind a police cordon, for keeping their “vigil in the night.” In quasi-religious language, he described last Thursday, when Ecuador granted him political asylum. “The sun came up on a courageous Latin American country that took a stand for justice,” he said.

Assange has often shown a firm grasp of the theatrical. While still on bail last fall, he turned up at a the temporary London Occupy movement camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral in a V for Vendetta mask; he has since received the support of much (though not all) of the global Occupy movement. This afternoon’s speech reached more broadly for Latin American populism. In the run-up to his appearance, many wags had been making analogies between Assange’s balcony appearance and the “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” moment of Eva Perón in the musical Evita. The link is not as spurious as it may seem: as Mac Margolis describes in this week’s edition of Newsweek, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa follows in the traditions of his predecessor Jose Maria Velasco, who once said: “Give me a balcony, and I’ll become the next president.”

While praising Ecuador and the other members of the Organization of American States that have agreed to debate the issue (despite vetoes from Canada and the U.S.) Friday in Washington, D.C., Assange also tried to politicize his case into a wider issue of press freedom and state repression. While he briefly mentioned the Pussy Riot trial, which saw three Russian singers jailed for two years for an anti-Putin concert in a church, his main focus was on the U.S. In ever more apocalyptic language Assange asked if America would use the opportunity “to affirm the revolutionary values it was founded on ... Or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?”

In the most effective part of his speech, Assange turned the issue away from himself and focused on the case of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Marine who allegedly leaked the diplomatic cables that brought WikiLeaks to global prominence. He called on President Obama to “renounce the witch hunt against WikiLeaks.”

“The war on whistleblowers must end,” said Assange, who questioned Manning’s treatment in jail for the last two years and called for his immediate release: “He is hero and an example to all of us ... one the world’s foremost political prisoners.”

While many civil libertarians and activists may have doubts about Assange’s case—especially since the charges he could face in Sweden are hardly “political”—the Manning cause does garner broader support. By fusing that kind of domestic dissent with President Correa’s apparent desire to become a new Latin American leader (now that Fidel Castro is retired and Hugo Chávez is recovering from cancer), Assange is attempting to turn his “hacktivism” into something bigger. Already, with the use of his face on T-shirts and placards, Assange is beginning to resemble some latter-day digital Che Guevara.

Cramped Abode

Inside Assange’s Embassy Home

A bed, a jury-rigged shower, a sunlamp. These are the comforts of Julian Assange’s refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy. Supporter Vaughan Smith tells Peter Popham about the WikiLeaks founder’s life now—and what he was like as a houseguest.

The strange odyssey of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken another bizarre turn, this time into what looks very much like a cul-de-sac.

Julian Assange

Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Home for the white-haired cyber warrior is now one small room “which can hardly be described as comfortable,” according to Vaughan Smith, the veteran video journalist who hosted Assange at his country estate in Norfolk for more than a year. The room is at the back of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, no more than a cramped mansion flat in an Edwardian block in Knightsbridge. There is no garden, not even a courtyard; the only exercise available is a treadmill. The air mattress he was provided on his arrival 60 days ago has since been replaced by a bed, and the Ecuadoreans have rigged up a shower for him. He also has the use of a sunlamp.

Smith spoke guardedly of the 13 months during which Assange was his houseguest. “I wouldn’t describe it as domestic bliss,” he said. “We have a housekeeper called Sue who was remarkable and who worked very hard to make it work. There was very often a great deal of pressure—people’s nerves were often quite stretched.”

The limitations of Assange’s new home may not matter much to a man famous for spending most of his waking hours in front of a computer. His nagging bad dream is that extradition to Sweden to face rape charges—charges derided by President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, in granting Assange political asylum—might lead to extradition to the U.S. to face espionage charges, which carry the death penalty.

Citing the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, the British government has threatened to invade the embassy and arrest Assange inside, if Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, “is satisfied that to do so is permissible under international law.” This looks like old-fashioned British saber-rattling; diplomats Friday warned that such action could rebound unpleasantly on Britain if it were to take such a drastic step.

Smith told The Daily Beast that the British government “seems relatively inflexible...a little bit shrill” in its attitude to the 41-year-old Australian citizen, but conceded that at this point Assange “does seem to be cornered.” While he is likely to remain beyond the British government’s clutches as long as he stays inside the embassy, one step outside and he risks re-arrest and extradition to Sweden.

“He is able to work,” Smith said, “and he has a lot of work to do.” Assange is preparing legal challenges to MasterCard and other former companies that refused to process donations to WikiLeaks. Smith said he has already achieved one legal victory, in Iceland.

Provocateur

Assange Besieged

Despite early rumors of a police raid to extract WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was granted political asylum Thursday, Britain’s biggest embassy standoff in decades is shaping up to be a long PR and legal war of attrition, Peter Jukes reports.

The siege in Knightsbridge, set off when Ecuador’s government finally granted Julian Assange political asylum  on Thursday, could be a claustrophobic and tense standoff. Ecuador’s London embassy, where he took refuge after the British supreme court denied his appeal against extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault, comprises only the ground floor of the substantial seven-story brick building. It is now ringed with a substantial police presence, most of it to keep international media, and the WikiLeaks founder’s supporters, at bay. The British authorities have insisted they will arrest the journalist and activist if he leaves the building for breaking his bail conditions. The 12-room embassy has no sleeping accommodation, though a shower has been installed for the 41-year-old Assange and he has been able to write updates to his Twitter account. Friends of Assange told The Daily Beast he was delighted when Ecuador granted him asylum, though also conceded he wouldn’t have sought refuge there in July had it not already been in the cards.

Despite rumors of a police raid on the embassy, the future of this siege looks set to involve a PR war of attrition, and a long, contentious litigious squabble. The British government on Thursday threatened to revoke the diplomatic status of the Knightsbridge embassy, but as legal bloggers Carl Gardener and David Allen Green point out, the underlying law is at best ambiguous and has never been tested in court. Nonetheless, the mere threat of it has been a gift to those who accuse the U.K. authorities of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and being the tools of a secret American plan to extradite Assange to the U.S. and treat him the same way as Bradley Manning, the former marine who provided WikiLeaks with its biggest ever scoop: millions of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Like the Greeks outside Troy, the main challenge for the besiegers is to keep a common front and stop fighting among themselves, but Assange has already caused significant divisions in the British government. The foreign secretary, William Hague, supported the threat to revoke diplomatic status, while his Foreign Office staff was aghast about how the move would be perceived overseas and the precedent it would set for their own embassies. Hague faced opposition not only from the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, but also the veteran Tory justice minister Kenneth Clark. In the end Prime Minister David Cameron had to step in and break the deadlock.

Embassy Stays

Clockwise from top left: Manuel Noriega, Svetlana Alliluyeva, Chen Guangcheng and Joseph Mindszenty. (AP Photo (4))

Not only has Assange therefore created domestic tensions in the U.K. government, he’s begun to cause a rift further afield. That Assange would choose President Rafael Correa’s country over Sweden has clearly left many Swedes incensed. Their foreign minister, Carl Bildt, has been busy pointing out Ecuador’s poor record on freedom of the press and civil liberties under Correa. Ecuador has been criticized by Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, and Reporters Without Borders. On Friday, the Ecuadorean government filed a motion to the Organization of American States calling for condemnation of U.K. threats to enter its London embassy.

Meanwhile, civil libertarians in both Britain and the United States have been deeply split by Assange’s latest move. Many supporters of WikiLeaks, such as Owen Jones, argue that the rights of the alleged victims of rape and sexual assault should first have their day in court. However, others claim Assange is not being afforded due process and is the victim of an American-led campaign to discredit and then charge him. Glenn Greenwald claims Ecuador showed “extraordinary courage” in giving the activist asylum. Some have noted that most Swedish prisons have much better facilities than the cramped Ecuadorean embassy and that, in accordance with European law, Sweden would not extradite a suspect to the U.S. who could face a death penalty.

Earlier Friday, Assange announced plans to talk the crowds from the window of the embassy, thus upping the ante once more. Love him or loathe him as a campaigner for journalism and transparency or a self-publicist with no regard for anyone but himself, Assange is certainly a genius at creating provocations and looks set to dramatically divide opinion inside his embassy bolt-hole for weeks to come.

Stay Awhile

7 Famous Embassy Stays

Embassy Stays

Clockwise from top left: Manuel Noriega, Svetlana Alliluyeva, Chen Guangcheng and Joseph Mindszenty. (AP Photo (4))

Ecuador has granted the WikiLeaks founder political asylum. But since Britain has vowed to arrest him if he sets foot outside the Ecuadorean embassy, he may not be leaving for awhile. From Chen Guangcheng to Manuel Noriega, The Daily Beast lists other individuals who have had to call a foreign embassy home.

Julian Assange

Ecuador has agreed to grant Julian Assange asylum. The WikiLeaks founder has been at the Ecuadorean embassy in London since June 19, trying to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of having sexually assaulted two women. British, American, and Swedish officials declined to give guarantees that he would not be sent to the United States, where he could face the death penalty—refusals that prompted Ecuador’s offer of asylum. However, even with the offer, Assange is still in legal trouble. British police are prepared to arrest him if he attempts to travel to Ecuador, which means at the very least he will remain at the diplomatic compound, where he sleeps on an air mattress in a small office and cannot go outside. But his stay at the embassy may be shorter than he thinks. Even ahead of Ecuador’s decision, British officials warned that they might suspend the embassy’s immunity in order to arrest Assange. 

Chen Guangcheng

In 2012, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng fled to the U.S. embassy in Beijing after escaping house arrest in his village in Shandong Province. Though a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called it “totally unacceptable,” Chen was welcomed into the embassy, where he remained for several days. He left on May 2 after official assurances of improved treatment and was taken to a Beijing hospital, where he was reunited with his family. But by the next day Chen had second thoughts. “Things haven’t changed; I still want to leave China,” he told The Daily Beast, even saying that he hoped “to leave for the U.S. on Hillary Clinton’s plane.” The crisis was eventually resolved: on May 19, Chen and his family left for the U.S., where he had received a fellowship to study at New York University. 

Manuel Noriega

The United States launched the invasion of Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, in order to oust Manuel Noriega, the military commander who had been governing Panama since 1983. Days later, Noriega fled to the Vatican embassy in Panama City. Unable to physically retrieve him, the U.S. military fought back by blasting rock music at the building nonstop. Noriega surrendered on Jan. 3, 1990, and was transported to Miami, where he was convicted of cocaine trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering.

Fang Lizhi

In 1989, Fang Lizhi wrote an open letter to Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping demanding the release of political prisoners. Fang had been a loyal Communist Party member up until that point, but his letter helped spark the pro-democracy student movement that eventually led to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Fang sought refuge along with his family at the U.S. embassy and President George H.W. Bush agreed to grant him asylum. Fang and his family remained there for nearly a year until June 1990, when Chinese officials allowed the family to leave the country. Fang became a professor at the University of Arizona, where he taught until his death in 2012.

Sanctuary

Julian Assange’s Asylum Gamble

This may be the Wikileaks hacktivist’s endgame: a last-ditch effort to find refuge with the Ecuadorian government. Mac Margolis on how Assange’s dangerous game might play out

In a modest first-floor flat of a five-story redbrick townhouse, just south of Hyde Park and behind a Harrods store, the world’s most prized fugitive brushes up on Spanish as he plots his getaway. Since June 19, Wikileaks editor Julian Assange, whose hard drive is the nightmare of some of the world’s most powerful leaders, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in a bid to gain asylum.

assange-ecuador-margolis

Activists participate in a demonstration in support of Julian Assange's political asylum in front of the Foreign Ministry in Quito on June 26, 2012. (Rodrigo Buendia, AFP / Getty Images)

Wanted in Sweden for questioning in a 2010 case of sexual assault, the silver-haired, 40-year-old Australian political hacktivist has been playing cat and mouse with international law enforcement ever since. His plea for a haven in a small, poor Andean nation may well be his emblematic endgame.

British authorities have ordered Assange back to Sweden and delivered a letter in his name to the Ecuadorian mission in Knightsbridge, summoning him to the Belgravia police station in London this Friday. Assange, apparently, has no intention of keeping the appointment, which his supporters describe as the first step on an inexorable path to extradition.

The asylum bid puts both Assange and his prospective hosts in a predicament. For the founder of Wikileaks, wanted by Swedish prosecutors and now officially unwelcome in Great Britain, the asylum gamble may be his last, best bet to beat jail. Thanks to the rituals of international diplomacy, he is untouchable as long as he remains inside the foreign mission, and Assange is working the media and political militants to turn that cramped patch of extraterritoriality into a defense bunker.

Julian Assange's TV show "The World Tomorrow."

What’s more, Assange’s boosters fear that Sweden is a Trojan Horse from Washington, which wants the activist to answer to U.S. courts for stealing government documents, a national security offense that could earn him life in prison or possibly even the death penalty. If Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), head of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, has her way, that is exactly what would happen.

“I believe Mr Assange has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States,” Feinstein told the Sydney Morning Herald in a written statement. ”He has caused serious harm to U.S. national security, and he should be prosecuted accordingly.”

Wikifreak

I Love the Julian Assange Show!

The first season of Assange’s talk show ends today, and Tracy Quan sings its praises—it’s addictive and informative, she writes.

The 12th and final episode of The World Tomorrow, which is also called The Julian Assange Show, airs Tuesday on Russia Today, a controversial cable network with links to the Kremlin. The half-hour show is repeated throughout the day in four languages on Russia Today's live stream, and you can catch up with previous episodes here. It's addictive, lively, wide-ranging, and informative, suggesting a well-rounded (by computer-geek standards) host.

julian assange

Julian Assange prepares to interview Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on the debut of his talk show, 'The World Tomorrow' (RT)

In an earlier episode, Assange was shown kibitzing homoerotically with the ex-husband of Jemima Khan, who contributed bail money to Assange in 2010. Fighting off a cold, he told Imran Khan, "my voice is a bit sexier than normal and I have to compete with you."

Described as a frontrunner to be the next leader of Pakistan, Imran Khan is also a former cricket star. Their sly collegiality syncs nicely with something Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, told Assange in a previous episode: "Welcome to the club of the persecuted."

A month later, while the show–entirely prerecorded–was airing, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remains. Viewers catching up with The Julian Assange Show may now experience a reality-TV buzz followed by a pang of anxiety. Correa's a smooth-faced ball of ranting populist energy, exuding an all-too-familiar fanatical certainty, while Assange, sporting some questionable blond stubble, appears more laid back. What's to become of Assange if he actually ends up not in Correa's club, but in his country, on the run from rape charges? Yikes.

Watch a promo for Julian Assange's "The World Tomorrow"

Fugitivism aside, a living-room atmosphere prevails on the show, whether guests are hanging with the host "under house arrest" or, like Khan and Correa, chatting via webcam. Good thing it's so cozy in here. Out there? Not as much.

Assange has been subjected to no small amount of snark for airing the first season of The World Tomorrow on Russia Today (RT), a cable network regarded by many as the Kremlin's tool. For getting into bed with Moscow in the springtime, he was called out as a useful idiot, part of a "long dishonorable tradition."

Legal Limbo

Assange Loses Extradition Fight

In a long-awaited decision, Britain’s Supreme Court cleared the way for the extradition of the WikiLeaks mastermind to face sexual-abuse allegations in Sweden. Mike Giglio talks to human-rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson about why Assange's true concern is the U.S.

UPDATE: Geoffrey Robertson, QC, the revered human-rights lawyer who played a key role in devising Assange’s legal defense, tells The Daily Beast that while the extradition battle may be lost, its impact has already been felt—and says that Assange’s true concern is the United States:

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images)

“[Today’s ruling] was entirely predictable, because to rule in his favor would have partly destroyed the European extradition arrangement. Nonetheless, [Assange’s legal argument] was a valid point. The argument that I devised for him was that to say a prosecutor was a judicial authority was a contradiction in terms. A judicial authority in British, American, and Australian law is a judge—someone who is independent and impartial. But a prosecutor obviously is not, and it’s a dissolution of civil liberties to adopt the unfair systems that Napoleon introduced into Europe, which muddles the distinction. However, the judges were divided, and all agreed that the British Parliament had been misled by ministers who assured it that a judicial authority did mean a judge.

“The argument has kept Mr. Assange free in Britain for 18 months, under house—or at least, mansion-house—arrest. And it enabled him to produce Cablegate, which is of much importance to historians and journalists and helped to spark the Arab Spring with its revelations of corruption in Tunisia and Egypt. Assange must face down these spurious allegations of ‘minor rape’ [another contradiction in terms] made against him in Sweden, but his real anxiety is that the grand jury sitting in Virginia will produce a sealed indictment and the Justice Department will pounce once he gets to Sweden. Sweden has a government that bends to America’s will and has been found guilty of handing out special rendition at the request of the CIA: the Swedish justice system is amenable to government pressure, and he is much more vulnerable in Sweden than he is in the United Kingdom or Australia. He is asking the Australian government to obtain an undertaking from the Swedish government that when its legal system is finished with him, he will be allowed to return to Australia, where he is confident that the courts will deal fairly with any American extradition requests.”

Original Story:

Britain’s Supreme Court ordered Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden today—but in yet another twist to the hacker’s strange legal saga, his fate could remain in the balance for at least another two weeks.

In its long-awaited decision, the court ruled by a margin of 5–2 that Sweden’s request to extradite Assange had been lawfully made, meaning that the controversial WikiLeaks founder should be returned to Sweden to face allegations of sexual abuse.

Julian Assange walks out of an interview when asked about rape allegations

Bolstering Dictatorship

Why Assange's Trashy Celebrity Harms Democracy

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Julian Assange (L), the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-bowing website, leaves the Supreme Court on February 01, 2012 in London, England (Oli Scarff / Getty Images)

Julian Assange claims to be a champion of democracy. Yet a recent report in the New Statesman reveals that WikiLeaks associates handed over secret U.S. diplomatic documents to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Democracy activists oppressed by the dictatorship don't realize that in inviting Assange to speak at the screening of a pro-democracy film, they are actually doing harm to their cause.

In December 2010, Israel Shamir, a WikiLeaks associate and an intimate friend of Julian Assange -- so close, in fact, that he outed the Swedish women who claim to be victims of rape and sexual assault by Assange -- allegedly travelled to Belarus with a cache of unredacted American diplomatic cables concerning the country. He reportedly met Lukashenko's chief of staff, Vladimir Makei, handed over the documents to the government, and stayed in the country to "observe" the presidential elections.

Those cables revealed details about pro-democracy advocates that the regime found unsavory.

The following month, Soviet Belarus, a state-run newspaper, began serializing what it claimed to be extracts from the cables gifted to Lukashenko by WikiLeaks. Among the figures "exposed" as recipients of foreign cash were Andrei Sannikov, a defeated opposition presidential candidate presently serving a five-year prison sentence; Oleg Bebenin, Sannikov's press secretary, who was found dead in suspicious circumstances months before the elections; and Vladimir Neklyayev, the writer and former president of Belarus PEN, who also ran against Lukashenko and is now under house arrest.

Julian Assange returns to court Wednesday with a new extradition appeal. But the heart of the case is whether a Swedish prosecutor should be called a ‘judicial authority,’ says Geoffrey Robertson.

Julian Assange’s next court appearance, on Wednesday, has nothing to do with sex or U.S. diplomatic cables or even with WikiLeaks. But it may make an important contribution to European law. The United Kingdom Supreme Court will be considering the point I raised on his behalf when a Swedish prosecutor claimed to be a “judicial authority” empowered to issue a warrant to have him extradited from Britain to prison in Stockholm. My written argument began quite bluntly: “The notion that a prosecutor is a ‘judicial authority’ is a contradiction in terms.”

Julian Assange

The United Kingdom Supreme Court is considering whether a Swedish prosecutor has the authority to issue an extradition warrant, like the one aimed at Julian Assange. (Ben Stansall, AFP / Getty Images)

The principle is simple, at least in Anglo-American law. Judges must, as their defining quality, be independent of government. Police and prosecutors employed and promoted by the state obviously cannot be perceived as impartial if they are permitted to decide issues on the liberty of individuals. They are expected to be zealous in working up evidence against a suspect, so they are the last people who can be trusted to weigh up impartially the evidence they themselves have drummed up. That is a matter for a court.

So how comes it that in Sweden and 11 other continental countries, prosecutors and even policemen are allowed to issue a European Arrest Warrant (EAW), which has the draconian effect of requiring the arrest of people in another country and dragging them off for trial in the state that has issued the warrant?

The answer partly derives from the lack of principle in the historical development of criminal law in Europe, where for centuries prosecutors and ministers of justice have exercised powers that in the U.K. and U.S. would need judicial approval. That Napoleonic figure, the “investigating magistrate”—a judicial official who conducts a pretrial investigation—has helped to muddy the distinction between law-enforcement agencies and judges.

So when all the major European countries got together 12 years ago to devise a fast track extradition process and decided that EAWs requiring the arrest and surrender of individuals could be issued by “judicial authorities,” there was some confusion about what that term meant, and whether police and prosecutors might qualify. Sweden and some other European countries thought they did, and so one of their prosecutors—not one of their courts—issued the warrant.

It will be inconvenient if Assange’s appeal succeeds, because 12 European countries will have to change their extradition procedures if they want to get their hands on suspects from the U.K. But the argument from inconvenience is the classic way for civil liberties to be lost.

The principle of judicial independence is especially important in the Assange case, where an allegation of what Swedes describe as “minor rape”—another contradiction in terms—was dismissed by a very experienced Stockholm prosecutor. It was later revived, in an unfair process from which Mr. Assange was excluded, by another prosecutor with a gender agenda who was given to issuing self-promoting press statements and withholding exculpatory evidence. Hence the argument that she was an inappropriate personage to take what should have been an impartial decision about whether an EAW should issue against her quarry, in order to interrogate him in Sweden, or whether he should simply be interviewed, as he offered, by video link from London.

CHARITABLE

Julian Assange's Guardian Angel

Denied his appeal against extradition to Sweden, Assange returns to his digs at a British countryside manor. Mike Giglio talks to the libertarian sheltering the WikiLeaks founder.

At the Frontline Club, a convivial hangout for journalists in London’s Paddington neighborhood, the audience was packed in tight to watch Wednesday evening’s panel debate on Occupy London—and one panelist in particular, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder and current ward of the British court system. Seated onstage in a brown leather jacket, Assange looked a little weary. “I’ve had a hard day,” he told the crowd.

assange-chair

Robert King / Polaris

Hours earlier, a British high court had denied his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where authorities want to question the 40-year-old Australian over allegations of sexual assault. Assange’s chances of staying put in Britain have become slimmer than ever. Though there is still some legal wrangling ahead, he could find himself in a Swedish jail by the end of the month.

In the meantime, Assange will return to the unlikely place he’s called home for the last 11 months: a 10-bedroom manor house in the British countryside, in the beautiful, rolling lands on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk, surrounded by 600 acres of woods, farms, and fields. His host, who stepped in at Assange’s darkest hour last December when a court refused to let the WikiLeaks founder post bail unless he had a permanent address in Britain, is Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline Club and avid campaigner for journalistic freedoms.

Smith is no ordinary WikiLeaks supporter. A former Army officer who made his name as a videographer and war correspondent, and a man with a self-professed libertarian bent, the 48-year-old Smith has allowed Assange to use his family estate as an indefinite permanent address and living quarters. (Previously, Assange had been staying in a room at the Frontline Club.) Assange has to heed certain terms of his bail—reportedly wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, and checking in with the local police station daily—but is otherwise free to run WikiLeaks from Ellingham Hall, where Smith lives with his wife and children.

At the time of Smith’s offer, he told the press that his decision to house Assange wasn’t about whether what he’d done with WikiLeaks was right or wrong; it was about “standing up to the bully” and “whether our country, in these historic times, really was the tolerant, independent, and open place I had been brought up to believe it was and feel that it needs to be." Sitting at a table at the Frontline Club before Assange’s appearance on Wednesday evening, as diners feasted on a menu of organic produce and free-range game from his manor grounds, Smith spoke about his relationship with Assange and the motivations for taking him under his roof.

“I support Julian in terms of the manner in which he is delivering us an opportunity to talk about really important stuff,” Smith says. “I think it’s important that we are encouraged to discuss secrecy in our society. It’s good for us.”

While Smith’s initial defense of Assange may have been primarily ideological, he’s grown fond of the man who has shared his home for close to a year. “I have seen a human side of him that hasn’t been represented in the press,” Smith says. “He is incredibly popular with my children, who see him as sort of an uncle figure. He’s somebody who gives you time … He’s odd, because in some regards he’s a team player, and in other regards he’s not a team player, insofar as you know he’s always very firm about his own views and doesn’t necessarily change them very often, and you can have rows with him. But he’s somebody who will listen to you, and he’s somebody who will give you time and give you attention and help you.”

Speech

Assange Addresses London Protesters

The WikiLeaks founder made a surprise appearance as the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to London. Mike Giglio reports.

Julian Assange, the mercurial founder of WikiLeaks and anarchist extraordinaire, made a surprise appearance at London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral today to address crowds of protesters occupying the city’s financial district.

Outside Paternoster Square, along Ludgate Hill Road, a sea of people thronged behind a line of riot cops, unable to access the heart of the protest. As Assange and his security detail made its way from the back of the square, through the police cordon and past the Marks & Spencer and Starbucks, cheers erupted from the crowd—which included members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous who helped organize the event and who turned up sporting devilish Guy Fawkes masks. Assange—dressed in his typical attire of a leather jacket and blue jeans—reached the cathedral stairs, and protesters thronged before him. “Sit down, sit down!” people cried. The protesters obediently knelt. “Let Jesus speak!” someone yelled. One of the protest’s organizers took the microphone and asked for an open-source vote. “Who wants Julian to  speak?” he said. There were scattered boos, but most people raised their hands in a “yea” sign and Assange took the microphone. He asked the crowd to do a call and repeat.

Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking to demonstrators from the steps of Saint Paul's Cathedral in London on Saturday (Leon Neal, AFP / Getty Images)

“Like all of you, I have had difficulties getting in here today,” he said. The crowd dutifully shouted back the words. “But there are many people who haven’t yet been able to get through.” The crowd, confused, mumbled half the line in response. Assange told the protesters that they were part of a movement “from Cairo to London.” He railed about how the law was being obstructed in Guantánamo Bay and about money laundering in the Cayman Islands and in London. “This movement is not about the destruction of law, it is about the construction of law,” Assange said. “I just wanted to say, we are all individuals.” The crowd cheered. A girl started tossing candy out at the protesters and Assange stepped in, grabbed a handful of treats, and lobbed them into the crowd. Then, as mysteriously as he appeared, he was gone.

Before Assange’s arrival, the crowd had been thinning out as protesters—mostly young and white—seemed unsure of where to go or what to do. Some milled about with large signs descrying the banks and financial institutions for imperiling the global economy. “Here Comes the Ethical Revolution,” one placard read. Others claimed, “We Are the 99 Percent,” “Cameron Must Go,” and “Goldman Sachs Is the Work of the Devil.”

At first, the crowd’s plan had been to march from Paternoster Square to the City, the heart of London’s banking elite, beginning around noon. But police cordoned off the square, effectively blocking more people from joining the scene and preventing the crowd from leaving. When the protesters attempted to go down different side streets, the riot cops effectively contained them. At one point the crowd began to get rowdy. “Shame on you,” people chanted at the cops. The police dogs started barking aggressively. A man with a loudspeaker yelled, “Let’s go back, let’s go back, give them space, give them space.” Meanwhile, a young woman on the front line screamed, “There’s not enough of us! Move forward!” The crowd eventually fell silent and lost its momentum to break the police barrier.

Back in the crowd, a young man looked at his friend. “There’s nothing to do here,” he said. “Let’s do something else.”

Meanwhile, Ronan McNern, 36—a bearded activist working to support the Occupy movement—insisted to a Newsweek reporter that the protesters did have a plan. When pressed, he couldn’t give specific details, “but there is a plan.” He said the movement was leaderless on purpose. “We need a new movement. That movement doesn’t know what it is yet, but this is the beginning.” He pointed out that it was hard to find a place to protest in London because of the amount of private land in the city. “This is just a microcosm of the world, the amount of control that’s here.”

Books

Assange Biography: Best Bits

The controversial release details the WikiLeaks founder’s vendettas, trysts, and a strong messiah complex.

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has derided the unauthorized release of his autobiography by his estranged publishers as “profiteering,” calling it “old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity—screwing people over to make a buck.” The hardcover, weighing in at nearly 250 pages, hit shelves today in London (at a W.H. Smith near Oxford Circus, it was marked down to half-price). The media frenzy over the release was such that The Guardian devoted a liveblog to the occasion, while The Independent led with an exclusive extract of what it called the “explosive confessions” of the controversial hacker.

Julian Assange Autobiography

Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

Assange, who is in Britain fighting extradition on rape charges to Sweden, tried to suppress the memoir—which is based on a draft written by a ghost writer and encompasses some 50 hours of interviews with Assange—and became embroiled in a contract fight with Canongate, the Edinburgh-based publishers. Assange claims not to know the book’s exact contents, saying in a statement posted on WikiLeaks last night, “Tomorrow, I will have to buy ‘my autobiography’ in order to learn the extent of the errors and inaccuracies of the content of the book.”

So what do the alleged confessions reveal? Here are six of the most eye-catching bits.

His Women

Last summer, Assange was accused by two Swedish women (both WikiLeaks volunteers) of forced sexual encounters. The resulting investigation, and his legal fight against extradition, have cast a shadow on his credibility and demolished his bank account (leading, according to his statement last night, to both his initial decision to write the memoir, and his later inability to legally contest its unauthorized publication). In the book, Assange describes the incidents in a casual tone, and paints the allegations as merely the fictitious tales of scorned pseudo-girlfriends—or perhaps something more sinister. He describes his night with the first woman, whom he calls “A—,” as “unremarkable. We had sex several times and the next day everything seemed fine between us.” His night with the other girl, “W—,” was “a perfectly nice time." Post-coitus, the woman apparently even gave him a ride to the train station on her bicycle, and paid for his ticket. “[S]he kissed me goodbye and asked me her to call her from the train. I didn’t do that, and it has already turned out to be the most expensive call I didn’t make.” Assange then offers two theories on the motivations behind the rape allegations. “So I wasn’t a reliable boyfriend, or even a very courteous sleeping partner, and this began to figure,” he writes. “Unless, of course, the agenda had been rigged from the start.”

His Enemies

During WikiLeaks’ dump of diplomatic cables on Afghanistan last summer, Assange collaborated with The Guardian and The New York Times—partnerships that eventually soured. In the book, Assange rips into the papers’ journalists. It’s not the first time he’s slammed the publications, but it’s clearly a favorite theme. “[S]enior journalists from the English-speaking world have serially loved WikiLeaks and then mugged us, almost without missing a beat, and then justified their actions with articles and books that must make them ridiculous in their own eyes.” Assange claims he first became suspicious of his arrangement with the papers after he was approached by The Guardian’s “special investigations reporter” (widely known to be Nick Davies, the man now famous for breaking the News of the World phone hacking scandal). The reporter, Assange says, told him that it wasn’t clear the cables made for a viable story and insisted the two publications would need WikiLeaks’ Iraq War logs in addition to the cables on Afghanistan as a “sweetener.” “I should have withdrawn at that point, seeing what was obvious: that these people were not gentlemen and did not know how to value significant data and human complexity for what it was. I should have spotted the self-serving glint in the news reporter’s eye and walked away.”

Displeased

Julian Assange Slams Publishers

The WikiLeaks founder and his publishers offer competing versions of events surrounding the release of his unauthorized autobiography.

Julian Assange has an unhappy knack for making enemies. In recent months, the founder of the whistle-blowing WikiLeaks website has fallen out with his onetime collaborators at The Guardian and with his lawyers. That’s not to mention the host of public figures angered by the WikiLeaks revelations.

Now it’s his publisher’s turn. In a scathing 1,800-word statement issued early Thursday morning, Assange condemned the decision of Edinburgh-based Canongate to release a first-draft version of his ghostwritten autobiography without his approval, after a long wrangle over the book’s contents and completion.

Assanage slams publisher

Julian Assange leaving the High Court in London in July (SUZANNE PLUNKETT / FILE / Landov)

Forthright as ever, the 40-year-old Australian blames the book’s release on simple greed. “The events surrounding [the book’s] unauthorised publication by Canongate are not about freedom of information—they are about old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity—screwing people over to make a buck.”

As usual, Assange’s list of grievances is long. Canongate, he says, has acted “in breach of contract, in breach of confidence, in breach of my creative rights and in breach of personal assurances.” As for its contents, the book was meant to be “about my life’s struggle for justice through access to knowledge. It has turned into something else.”

According to Assange, he agreed to write the book—published under the title Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Version—in late 2010 in an attempt to raise funds for his own defense against rape charges in Sweden and to contribute toward the operating costs of WikiLeaks. It was to be “part memoir, part manifesto.”

But this summer, Assange—who is on bail in Britain—says he attempted to renegotiate the contract and set a new deadline. Because of his legal struggles, he says, he was not in a position to dedicate "my full attention to a book that would narrate my personal and my life’s work.”

What’s more, Assange claims that he was unable to repay an advance he’d received from Canongate because the money had been allegedly signed over, against his wishes, to lawyers who are fighting his case against extradition to Sweden. Assange says he is currently in dispute with the law firm over what he considers excessive fees.

Assange: End the 'Witch Hunt'

In his first public appearance in months, Julian Assange spoke from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, asking the U.S. to end its 'witch hunt' against WikiLeaks.

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