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Is WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s London Embassy Asylum Nearing its End? Ecuador decides to temporarily cut his Internet Access

WikiLeaks accused Clinton's successor at the State Department, John Kerry, of personally petitioning Ecuador to cut Assange's internet access

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The Ecuadoran national emblem is attached to railings outside the country's embassy in London, Oct. 18, 2016. British officials have long expressed frustration at Ecuador's decision to let WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange take refuge in the embassy. VOA

Ecuador’s decision to temporarily cut Julian Assange’s internet access is a sign that the WikiLeaks founder could be overstaying his welcome at the country’s London embassy — or so some in Britain hope.

British officials have long expressed frustration at Ecuador’s decision four years ago to let Assange take refuge in the embassy to escape arrest on sexual assault charges he faces in Sweden.

“I do hope that this is the precursor to them coming to their senses and finally forcing this man to face justice in the way that he should,” said Davis Lewin, a political analyst at London’s Henry Jackson Society think tank.

The Quito government confirmed it cut Assange’s internet access Tuesday to prevent him from meddling in the U.S. election, after WikiLeaks published documents and messages hacked from the presidential campaign of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

FILE - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participates via video link in a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of the anti-secrecy group in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 4, 2016. VOA
FILE – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participates via video link in a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of the anti-secrecy group in Berlin, Germany, Oct. 4, 2016. VOA

Matter of principle

“The government of Ecuador respects the principle of nonintervention in the affairs of other countries does not interfere in current elections, nor does it support any candidate in particular,” said a statement by the Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry.

The emails that WikiLeaks disclosed suggest that Clinton’s campaign worked to discredit a woman who accused her husband, former President Bill Clinton, of rape.

WikiLeaks accused Clinton’s successor at the State Department, John Kerry, of personally petitioning Ecuador to cut Assange’s internet access. Officials in Washington have rejected the charge and strenuously denied that Kerry was involved in any way.

How Ecuador reached its decision to sever Assange’s internet connections is unclear, nor has there been any indication of how long the “temporary” change in his status will remain in effect. However, analysts say it is a sign that Ecuadoran officials do not regard their longtime guest as positively as they did in 2012, when he first arrived at their embassy in London’s upscale Knightsbridge district.

Honored guest

At the time, Ecuador’s left-leaning president, Rafael Correa, treated Assange as an honored guest. Correa joined with the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in lambasting the U.S. and Western policies and presenting Assange as a champion of democracy and free speech.

FILE - Ecuador's President Rafael Correa waves prior to a governmental ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 10, 2015. Correa recently expressed admiration for Hillary Clinton and said he hoped she wins the U.S. presidential election. VOA
FILE – Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa waves prior to a governmental ceremony in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 10, 2015. Correa recently expressed admiration for Hillary Clinton and said he hoped she wins the U.S. presidential election. VOA

Recently, however, Correa told an interviewer that if he were American, he would vote for Clinton. “I know her personally and I have great appreciation for her,” he said. “For the good of the United States and the good of the world, I’d want Hillary to win.”

WikiLeaks’ supporters, including some high-profile figures, are occasionally seen outside the embassy. Canadian-American actress and model Pamela Anderson expressed concern for Assange’s health and was seen this week delivering a vegan meal to him.

But analysts say Assange’s fortunes appear to be changing as the political climate in Latin America and much of the rest of the world shifts.

Leftists disillusioned

Correa’s term is about to end and Venezuela’s economic failures have disillusioned many Latin American leftists.

In Britain, critics dispute any notion that Assange’s practice of leaking confidential or secret documents reflects a true commitment to democratic values.

Some, like Davis Lewin, see a troubling double standard in Assange’s crusade.

“One has to ask: Why is it only anti-American? Why is it only disclosures that hurt Western institutions, Western political leaders?” Lewin asked. “One has to wonder why it is that Assange has never done anything to hurt Russian interests. And I think the answer is, people will have to make up their own minds about that.” (VOA)

  • Kenneth Dreger

    And if you really think that the US had NOTHING to do with this happening I have some really good swamp land here that is for sale at a really great price! Wow…….just amazing that the media wants us all to think that the US had nothing to do with this! Wow….

Next Story

Christine Ford Testifies Against Brett Kavanaugh; Decision Pending

If Kavanaugh is confirmed for the Supreme Court, the court will have a clear 5-4 conservative majority, which could be solidified for a generation or longer.

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Brett Kavanaugh
In this combination image of Reuters photos, Christine Blasey Ford, left, and Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testify separately before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

It was a day of drama, tears and tempers in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh angrily denying a charge of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford at a party in 1982 when they were teenagers.

Both got the chance to tell their stories to the Senate Judiciary Committee during a nearly nine-hour-long hearing.

“I have never sexually assaulted anyone, not in high school, not in college, not ever,” Kavanaugh told the senators. “I have never done this to her or to anyone.”

Hours earlier, Ford told the panel she was “100 percent certain” it was a drunken Kavanaugh who pinned her down on a bed, groped her, tried to take off her clothes, and put his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams for help.

Kavanaugh told the senators he attended no such party. He accused Democrats of seeking to avenge Hillary Clinton’s election loss by mounting a calculated attack for political gain and engaging in grotesque character assassination.

Kavanaugh vowed he will not be intimidated into withdrawing.

The Judiciary Committee, with 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, plan to vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination Friday and, if approved, will send it to the entire Senate, which will begin procedural votes Saturday.

 

Brett Kavanaugh
In this photo combination, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

 

Late Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee announced he would vote to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While, he said, it took courage for Ford to testify, there was no evidence to corroborate her allegations.

Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he is still weighing his vote after hearing Ford and Kavanaugh testify.

Asked how he will vote, Flake said, “Let me process it.”

 

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota, also said she needs time to decide how she will vote. She is running for re-election in a state that voted heavily for President Donald Trump.

Sen. Doug Jones, a first-term Democrat from Alabama, said he is voting no on Kavenaugh’s bid for the Supreme Court. “The Kavanaugh nomination process has been flawed from the beginning,” he said, adding that Ford was credible and courageous.

Brett Kavanaugh
In this photo combination, Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Ford’s testimony

Earlier in the day, Ford testified that she feared that Kavanaugh was “going to accidentally kill” her during the alleged incident in 1982.

She said what she remembers most was Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge’s “uproarious laughter” during the incident and “having fun at my expense.”

Democratic senators repeatedly praised Ford for her courage in coming forward.

A prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, questioned Ford on behalf of Senate Republicans. She asked Ford about timelines and peripheral issues and did not challenge her basic account of sexual assault. But Ford’s account lacked firm corroboration of her claims by others at the party.

Kavanaugh’s testimony

Kavanaugh was much angrier, strident and emotional.

He “unequivocally and categorically” denied the charges and cried as he spoke of how the ordeal has wrecked his family. He presented the senators with what he said were handwritten calendars from 1982 showing his activities and whereabouts. He says they did not include the party.

Kavanaugh said he welcomes whatever the investigation the committee wants, but would not directly answer whether he would approve an FBI probe.

Brett Kavanaugh
Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh gives his opening statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Admitting he loves drinking beer, he pointed to what he says was his outstanding academic record and dedication to high school sports and church.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley defended Kavanaugh and blamed Democrats for not disclosing the accusations earlier.

“As part of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the FBI conducted its sixth full field background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh since 1993, 25 years ago. Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports … was there a whiff of any issue, any issue at all related to anyway inappropriate sexual behavior.”

But Democrats did not buy Kavanaugh’s self-portrayal of an angelic choir boy. Senator Patrick Leahy pointed to Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook page and its jokes about heavy drinking and sex.

Brett Kavanaugh
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., makes a point during a hearing with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee. VOA

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham lost his temper during his time to question Kavanaugh. He accused Democrats of an “unethical sham” and warning Republicans that if they vote not to confirm Kavanaugh, they would legitimize “the most despicable thing I’ve ever seen in my time in politics.”

Trump stands by his man

President Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. He tweeted that the judge showed Americans exactly why he was chosen.

Trump’s tweet did not mention Ford.

No clear winner

Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, Ilya Shapiro, says it is unclear if anyone came out ahead after Thursday’s testimony.

Also Read: Video- USA Gears Up For Its Midterm Elections

“We’re at a dangerous point because if we have no more evidence and Kavanaugh’s rejected, that sets the precedent that accusations are enough to derail … and if he’s approved, then still there will be people who think that he’s a sexual assaulter or rapist and there he is sitting at the Supreme Court.”

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, the court will have a clear 5-4 conservative majority, which could be solidified for a generation or longer. (VOA)