Ecuador is to grant political asylum to Julian Assange

Stories that you’ll never now hear from Wikileaks:

On 19 November 2011

the President of the National Assembly, Fernando Cordero, issued a public warning against Betty Escobar, an Ecuadorian citizen who lives in the United States. Through the micro-blogging social network Twitter, Cordero warned Escobar to “change her language or she would soon regret her licentiousness,” after she tweeted a comment that was critical of the official.

The National Assembly President reacted to a comment directed at him by Escobar, identified in Twitter by the name @basoledispa. It said:”you are incompetent, you fail to comply with the law and you support the dictatorship! you and correa should go to prison for corruption! double standards”. The official responded:”read art. 18 of the Constitution, try to understand what responsibility is, change your language or you will soon regret your licentiousness.”

On 16th February 2012, three executives and a former columnist for the Ecuador newspaper El Universo were sentenced to three years in prison and over £26M (US $42M) in damages, ratifying two previous decisions against this leading opposition newspaper:

In March 2011, President Rafael Correa brought criminal libel charges against Emilio Palacio, a former columnist for ‘El Universal’, in reference to an article referring to the president as “the dictator”. The article also stated that Correa “ordered discretionary fire—without prior notification—against a hospital full of civilians and innocent people” during a police revolt in 2010.

The final decision, which is not subject to further appeal in the Ecuadorian courts, came after more than 13 hours of deliberation. The judges’ panel from the National Court of Justice asked the parties if they had agreed to a resolution, but while the defendants said they were open to settling out of court, President Correa maintained his stance against the paper.

A week later the president of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, offered asylum to Carlos Pérez Barriga, one of the owners of the El Universo newspaper who had been sentenced to three years in prison and 26m GBP in fines for “defaming Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa.”

Emilio Palacio, the journalist who penned the editorial that provoked Correa’s libel complaint, has sought asylum in the US. Pérez’s brothers — who are co-owners — are also currently in the United States and reportedly fear returning to Ecuador.

On 24 May 2012, authorities of the Ecuador Police and Telecommunications Superintendence (SUPERTEL) seized equipment and closed down a TV station and a radio station in northeastern Ecuador.

The radio and TV stations’ owner, Edison Chávez, confirmed that the police intendant, Liliana Villa, arrived at Lidervisión’s headquarters and, after showing a warrant issued by SUPERTEL, “searched the place, accompanied by public prosecutors, broke everything and took the broadcasting equipment, like in a dictatorship. They used a padlock and left everything locked”, he stated. Chávez made clear that the same thing did not happen at the radio station because they decided to remove the equipment voluntarily before it was seized.
The frequencies’ owner believes the closures were politically motivated and that “they (the authorities) aim to suspend all private media using any kind of argument”.

In his case, Chávez asserted that his media outlets have criticized authorities and have given the public a space to express itself. For example, he pointed out that they questioned the sudden layoffs of public servants, as well as the gas crisis in the province that caused people to have to make long queues. “It was the only outlet citizens could use to protest and express themselves because the rest are pro-government”, he said.

More at the Index on Censorship.

The Index on Censorship is now among Wikileaks enemies

[Update: Aliaksandr Barankov has been charged with fraud by the government of Belarus. He fled to Ecuador and claimed asylum three years ago. But now:

The plight of Barankov poses a real test of Ecuador’s commitment to human rights. A former Belarusian army captain, Barankov arrived in Quito in 2008 thanks to the Ecuadorian government’s very liberal immigration laws. He then set up a blog denouncing corruption and other crimes allegedly committed under authoritarian ruler Alexander Lukashenko. Ecuador initially granted him refugee status, but after a state visit by Lukashenko to Quito on June 29, he was arrested and is being held in the capital’s infamous, 19th century prison while the top court hears the case on Belarus’ fresh extradition request. If sent there, according to his partner, Maribel Andrade, he will face charges of treason and could be put to death.

(Translated news at Doubt we’ll be hearing anything from Wikileaks about this either.]

President Correa, 2nd August:

“The important thing is for Julian to be assured that Ecuador is considering with great responsibility” his request, the president told Assange’s mother, Christine Assange, during their hour-long meeting.

Mr Correa said his country has a “great humanist tradition and respect for human rights.”

But not free speech.

Swedish constitution, Chapter 2 Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, Article 1:

(1) All citizens shall be guaranteed the following in their relations with the public administration:
1) freedom of expression: the freedom to communicate information and to express ideas, opinions and emotions, whether orally, in writing, in pictorial representations, or in any other way;
2) freedom of information: the freedom to obtain and receive information and otherwise acquaint oneself with the utterances of others;
3) freedom of assembly: the freedom to organize or attend any meeting for information purposes or for the expression of opinions or for any other similar purpose or for the purpose of presenting artistic work;
4) freedom to demonstrate: the freedom to organize or take part in any demonstration in a public place;
5) freedom of association: the freedom to unite with others for public or private purposes; and
6) freedom of worship: the freedom to practice one’s own religion623 either alone or in company with others.
(2) In the case of the freedom of the press the provisions of the Freedom of the Press Act shall apply. That act also contains provisions concerning the right of access to public documents.

Stavvers, 20th June 2012:

So why won’t Assange go back to Sweden, where he is still phenomenally unlikely to find his arse extradited? All that is left, once the smoke and mirrors of the inflated threat of extradition from Sweden clears, is the fact that Assange raped two of Sweden’s citizens. And of course, Assange’s fans are still banging the rape apologism drum.

Glenn Greenwald attempted to claim (and then attempted to justify his claim) that Sweden is a terrible, oppressive regime which would be much more easily bullied into handing over Assange than the UK. (Unfortunately for his claims, Assange actually wanted to live in Sweden before he found he couldn’t rape women there, and the UK really does have a terrible history of compliance with US wishes.) Jeremy Duns debunks the rest.

Also, those pesky laws of physics:

So Assange is stuck indefinitely in a poky little building in Knightsbridge. If he so much as sets foot outside, he’ll be arrested and extradited to Sweden. In his bid to avoid accountability and due process, he has chosen to imprison himself. – Julian Assange has imprisoned himself indefinitely without trial

Rec’d: A useful guide to points often confused about Julian Assange.

Also: Why Assange won’t be leaving the embassy in Knightsbridge.

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Filed under In The Media, Justice, Women

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