Today marks three years since Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, walked into the Ecuadorean embassy in London, which has become in effect his jail.
Assange, who has been recognized as a refugee by Ecuador, sought protection from deportation to Sweden, where he is wanted in a preliminary investigation on various allegations of non-consensual sexual relations. He has consistently maintained he is ready to cooperate fully. But Sweden hasn’t granted him assurances it wouldn’t deport him to the U.S., which has maintained an open-ended investigation of him and others associated with Wikileaks on espionage and other charges for publishing classified US diplomatic cables leaked by Chelsea Manning. Were he to set foot outside the embassy, he would risk extradition to the US.
Sweden’s prosecutor has managed to forestall a decision by Sweden’s Supreme Court to quash the arrest warrant based on Assange’s prolonged confinement by declaring in March that she would interview him in London. It is June and this has yet to occur, despite the impending statute of limitations on three of the four possible charges against him. His lawyers argue that at this point, his liberty has been restricted longer than the prison sentence he would likely face were convicted.
Sweden deserves censure for foot-dragging, which serves neither the interests of the two women alleged to be his victims nor of Assange. So whose interests does it serve?
The US government, which would be only too happy to see Julian Assange caged, is accomplishing through a protracted and secret grand jury investigation what it should not accomplish through law. No evidence has emerged that would show he did more than what publishers of more mainstream outlets do—release to the public information of public interest. So far, the US has not prosecuted the media under the draconian terms of its antiquated Espionage Act, though it has been quite willing under President Obama to punish the leakers.
The US should make good on former Attorney General Eric Holder’s assurance that the Justice Department “will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job” and close its Assange investigation or let the public and the media know what evidence justifies keeping it going.