I'd rather hoped we'd heard the last of the creepy Julian Assange when he broke his bail conditions earlier this year and ducked into the Ecuadorian embassy in London asking for political asylum. For a man who claims to believe so strongly in freedom of speech the Ecuadorian embassy seems a strange choice. Ecuador is not known for its tolerance of a critical media but maybe Assange plans to change all that if and when he settles there.
Predictably the motley assortment of bearded lefties, gullible Twitterati and the sort of people who read the Mail and Guardian have all fallen for the conspiracy theory that Assange's life is in danger should he be extradited to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault and possibly rape. Assange seems to be the sole author of these conspiracy theories in which he claims that the US are planning to snatch him en route to Stockholm and bundle him back to America where he will have a sham trial and be sentenced to death. This Hollywood version of what might possibly happen to him has evidently struck a chord with his supporters who seem reluctant to look at the facts of the case.
If the US had really wanted Assange out of the way then they have had plenty of opportunity to get rid of him. Indeed, if Assange genuinely believes his life is in danger then he was particularly stupid to step out onto the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy last Sunday at a pre advertised time in full sniper's range of the surrounding Knightsbridge buildings. Predictably no shots rang out.
Mundane as it may be for the man many erroneously believe to be at the vanguard of freedom of speech, he is wanted for questioning about sex crimes by a country most people would regard as fair and liberal. There has not been a scrap of evidence that Sweden would do a secret deal with the USA and hand Assange over to the tender mercies of the US legal system. That is a fiction invented by Assange to wriggle out of the sex charges he faces. Breaking his bail conditions, ducking into a foreign embassy and negotiating political asylum is as near an admission of guilt as you could wish for.
So now Assange has to figure out how to get out of the Ecuadorian embassy without being arrested. The British government has a legal obligation to hand him over to the Swedish authorities and have said that they cannot guarantee his safe passage once he leaves the safety of the embassy. He is on Interpol's red alert list of most wanted people so the chances of him slipping through airport security are virtually non existent. And if he starts digging an escape tunnel he'll eventually connect with the London Underground system.
I'm sure the Ecuadorian embassy staff must be fed up with his presence after two months. There are no bedrooms in the embassy and a shower has had to be specially installed to keep Assange fragrant. Maybe an embassy secretary could be persuaded to spike his coffee and then drag the snoozing Assange out onto the pavement where the police could take over.
But even if Assange was somehow able to make it out of the country and to Ecuador then he would be far nearer the US than he is at the moment. His physical features will not make it easy to blend in with the swarthy locals so it wouldn't be too difficult for a bounty hunter to locate him, drug him and fly him back to the US for a sham trial and the death sentence. I'm sure that conspiracy theory must have already occurred to the paranoid Assange.
An ideal solution to this absurd stand-off would be for the Ecuadorian president to realise that he is dealing with a narcissistic nutter and that no good can come of it. The trade relationship with Britain is surely more valuable in the long term than a relationship with an alleged rapist. Political asylum should be revoked and Assange should man up and face the sex charges in Sweden. That should keep him busy for a year or so and if the US are still interested in talking to him then they can formally apply for extradition. Assuming that happens then Assange can expect years of protracted and ruinously expensive legal action in the US courts. Considering the global coverage Assange has attracted the death sentence seems highly unlikely.
Given the choice between a Swedish prison and a US one I suspect I would opt for the Swedish version so maybe Assange should spare his Ecuadorian hosts further embarrassment, plead guilty to the sex charges and enjoy the hospitality of the Swedish government for a few years. Who knows, with the passing of time the US and the rest of the world may even forget he ever existed.
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