The US Senate Intelligence Committee has requested that persecuted WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange testify before committee staff. The committee is investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In a letter delivered to Assange at his residence in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, committee chairman Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) requested that Assange make himself available for a closed interview “at a mutually agreeable time and location.”
BREAKING: US Senate Intelligence Committee calls editor @JulianAssange to testify. Letter delivered via US embassy in London. WikiLeaks' legal team say they are "considering the offer but testimony must conform to a high ethical standard". Also: https://t.co/pPf0GTjTlp pic.twitter.com/TrDKkCKVBx
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 8, 2018
WikiLeaks’ legal team said that they “are considering the offer but testimony must conform to a high ethical standard.”
Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, seeking asylum from possible extradition to the US, where he faced indictment under the Espionage Act for publishing leaked government documents. Since his de-facto house arrest in the embassy, WikiLeaks has continued to draw controversy, publishing then-candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails and leaked emails from the Democratic Party’s internal servers in 2016.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 28, 2018
Pence visited Ecuador shortly after, and met with the country’s president, Lenin Moreno. After meeting with Pence, Moreno reportedly mulled evicting Assange from the embassy. Assange had been granted asylum by Moreno’s predecessor, and the new president described the Australian journalist as an “inherited problem.”
Human Rights Watch has called on the UK government to allow Assange to leave his embassy home without the threat of extradition to the US, where he could face life in prison. In 2016, a UN working group found that Assange’s stay in the embassy amounted to an “arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”
“Ecuador has been very clear” on Assange’s asylum status, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told Spain’s ABC newspaper. “It is an issue that should be dealt with in the framework of international law by three parties: the British government, the Ecuadorian government and Assange’s lawyers,” the Foreign Minister said.
According to the top diplomat, the asylum agreement which was granted in its own time requires some sort of resolution, “because it cannot be an eternal asylum. But it’s difficult to predict how long it will take to find a solution,” he said.
Valencia doesn’t believe that Quito’s request that Assange doesn’t make political statements while residing at the embassy, including comments on the Catalan independence movement, to be evidence of any sort of censorship.
“Ecuador granted Assange asylum on the basis of agreements providing him with protection by our country in the diplomatic headquarters. These conventions determine that the person seeking asylum cannot make political pronouncements or put the host country’s relationship with third parties (in this case Spain) at risk.”
As well, the outstanding UK arrest warrant against him, issued for breach of bail conditions related to those charges, remains in force, and Assange would be subject to arrest if he stepped foot outside the Embassy, according to London Metropolitan Police.
Assange’s internet connection was cut off in March, with a WikiLeaks adviser and Assange ally saying the move may have been connected with the activist’s tweets about the Skripal poisoning case.
To add onto Assange’s growing list of woes, has a lung condition that could get worse, the South American country’s envoy to Britain said on Wednesday.
“He has a chronic lung condition that could worsen at any time,” Ambassador Ana Alban told reporters ahead of an annual gathering of Ecuador’s diplomatic corps with President Rafael Correa in Quito.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 8th, 2018