It's Not About Russia: Scholar on What's Behind US' Desire to Interview Assange

© REUTERS / Peter NichollsWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Britain, May 19, 2017 - Sputnik International
The US Senate Intelligence Committee has requested Julian Assange testify in the case of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, has shared his view on what could be behind the US authorities' desire to interview the WikiLeaks founder.

Sputnik: What do you think about the request by the US Senate Intelligence Committee now for Julian Assange to testify in its probe into Russia's alleged 2016 election tampering?

Peter Tatchell: Well, it's very clear that in the US there has been for number of years a secret grand jury convened with a view to pressing charges against Julian Assange over his publication of the leaked material that was supplied by Chelsea Manning. That is the broader context. So, I think that the US Senate Intelligence Committee request for him to be interviewed is not just about the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election. I think it's probably part of bigger picture and I think that Julian Assange needs to be very careful because I think this attempt to interview him will not just be about the question of election interference, but will end up being, in a much broader sense, a probe into what he did in publishing the leaks of the US war crimes in Iraq.

READ MORE: US Senate Intel Committee Urges Assange to Testify in Russia Probe — WikiLeaks

Sputnik: Well, for sure, perhaps they are burrowing a channel to get access to Julian Assange and then to get greater access to the whole situation with the WikiLeaks leader, of course. Now, Ecuador said earlier that Assange can leave the embassy in London. Is this an indication that he might be evicted from the embassy soon? I mean, this question has been going on now, it's banging on the bottom for a number of weeks and months and we are expecting Assange to be released out of the embassy, but obviously there is political and legal impasse. Do you believe that he is going to have leave the embassy soon or this impasse just can go on without any time limits?   

Peter Tatchell: Initially, the statements from the Ecuadorian president some weeks ago indicated that he might even be forced out of the embassy by the Ecuadorians, but since then subsequent statements by President Moreno have indicated that he won't be forced out unless the United Kingdom government can guarantee that he won't be extradited to the United States to face those charges over publishing details about US war crimes and other abuses. So, that seems to be a reassurance and we know that there is or have been high-level negotiations between the Ecuadorian and British governments, trying resolve the matter, but clearly a resolution has not yet been achieved. So you are right, we are stuck in an impasse and Julian Assange is really…

READ MORE: US Intelligence Veterans Urge Governments to Ensure Assange's Right for Asylum

Now the ball is in the court of the British government and my own view is that since he was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian government way back into 2012, the British government should honor that. You know, under the Refugee Convention of 1951 which Britain has signed and pledged uphold states are duty bound to recognize and accept political asylum that has been granted by other states. So, in my view, certainly, Assange may have to face some charges over skipping bail when he went into the embassy but beyond that, I think, the British government should facilitate his safe passage to Ecuador. That is the right thing to do. There is no public interest in continuing to hound him [Julian Assange] at all.

READ MORE: US Gov't Needs to Ensure Assange's Protection Amid Testimony Request — Lawyer

The views and opinions expressed by Peter Tatchell are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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