14:31 GMT05 March 2021
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    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange recently launched a legal challenge against the Trump administration. The activist’s lawyers filed an urgent application to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, demanding US prosecutors reveal possible charges against the Australian citizen.

    The move aims to prevent his extradition to the United States. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012. He was accused of rape by Sweden, though the charges were later dropped.

    The accusations followed a grand jury hearing in 2011 into the publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables. The legal request is more than 1,000 pages long and also urges Ecuador to cease its espionage activities against Assange.

    READ MORE: Assange's Defense Team Legally Challenges Trump Administration

    Radio Sputnik discussed the legal challenge launched by Julian Assange with Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner and the director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

    Sputnik: So, in your view, how high are the chances that this legal team will be able to get the requested information from the US authorities now?

    Peter Tatchell: Well, the application is gone by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the trouble is the Trump administration has recently begun boycotting that body. So there is a real difficulty in getting due process of law when the US government won't cooperate, and that is the challenge that Julian Assange's team faces.

    What is very, very clear is the basic human rights principle that someone who is facing charges should know what those charges are. And we know that a secret grand jury was convened in 2011 to press charges against Assange. We know that the US Department of Justice recently inadvertently leaked the fact that charges do exist under seal, but Julian Assange is not allowed to know them. And that strikes me as extraordinary for a supposedly democratic nation governed by the rule of law and supposedly a nation which upholds basic principles of justice.

    Sputnik: Well, exactly. I mean I am just reading this United Nations Human Rights Website where they are talking about the situation with the [WikiLeaks] founder Julian Assange and stressing the need to the United Kingdom government and the Ecuadorian Embassy for Assange to walk free, and they've actually stated here, "states that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that's understandable.

    But when they honestly admit these violations they do, honour the very spirit of the rule of law and hence respect for doing so and set worldwide commendable examples". But they don't seem to be following that, this is a quote of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD). I mean what can you add to that? It is basically hypocrisy, isn't it?

    Peter Tatchell: Well, it is and it is also hypocritical about the way in which Assange is being pursued but not other media outlets that have also published the same thing that the US is so angry about. So let's get it clear, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange are not whistle-blowers. The whistle-blower was Chelsea Manning. WikiLeaks and Julian Assange merely published the leak that Chelsea Manning gave them in the same way as The Guardian and The New York Times also published the leaks that were sent via WikiLeaks from Chelsea Manning.

    READ MORE: Ecuador Believes Assange Should Surrender to UK Authorities — Foreign Minister

    So, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have the status of publishers similar to The New York Times and The Guardian. So the question is: why is that the US government not going after The Guardian and The New York Times? Why are they solely focusing on Julian Assange?

    Sputnik: Well, you are exactly right, that's a rhetorical question, of course, and it needs answering. Looks as though it's not going to be answered. So, what is your particular point of view then on the current American administration? There is a bit of a paradox when we think about President Trump having benefitted from the publication of diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks during his election campaign, but not really doing anything to assist those that benefitted him. I mean have you got a point of view on this?

    Peter Tatchell: Well, exactly and it is shocking that key Trump administration officials have made it absolutely clear that Assange is a target, that they intend to pursue him and get him prosecuted, convicted and sentenced.

    The US Attorney General made that clear some month ago that they were after Assange and they were going to get him. So there is no doubt that the US administration is incredibly angry that Assange published, thanks to Chelsea Manning and others, published information, which highlighted human rights abuses by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which exposed some of the doublespeak by US diplomats around the world and so on.
    So, the real issue is not about the fact.

    You know, Assange and WikiLeaks published facts. You know, surely the American public and the wider global public have a right to know the facts. And we would not have known about these human rights abuses if it hadn't been for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. So I think they did a great public service. And for Julian Assange to be hounded in this way is just so, so wrong. You know, the principle of the public's right to know, of freedom of information is a cornerstone of a democratic society. And you know it really is time that the American administration starts to act according to its own constitution and legal principles.

    Sputnik: Well, I am sure many of our listeners would totally agree with you, your thoughts and your feelings with regard to what you have just said there. And we know it is going to be a bit lengthy process and the chances are it is going to be stuck in a legal quagmire. Me and yourself, Peter, have had many discussions on this show over the last sort of 12-18 months, nothing has really moved forward in terms of Julian [Assange] being released from the embassy in the United Kingdom.

    What can you add to any sort of current situation, thoughts or feelings, any sort of chance or change in circumstances with regard to this particular situation, where it is just not going anywhere? Have you got any sort of news or anything positive that you can share with our listeners with regard to Julian's personal situation at the moment?

    Peter Tatchell: Well, the Ecuadorian government is blowing hot and cold. One minute saying "he has got to leave the embassy, this intolerably can't continue". The next minute Chad Griffin, said: "I know we are not going to force him out, we are trying to get a solution".

    Well, Ecuador has been trying to get a solution for well over a year. Unfortunately, the British government won't play ball. Now, my view is that yes, Julian Assange skipped bail. So he has a charge to answer in the UK. But surely that can be some negotiated agreement that he will be able to leave the embassy, he will face that charge of skipping bail and be prosecuted.

    READ MORE: Ecuadorian Court Dismisses Assange's Appeal on Embassy 'Living Restrictions'

    e might get a short, you know, one-week or two-week prison sentence or maybe a fine, but then he should be allowed to go to Ecuador to pursue his justified, legitimate claim for political asylum. You know, under the Refugee Convention which Britain has signed, Britain is supposed to recognise political asylum granted by other countries.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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