No one is emerging well from the Julian Assange extradition circus playing out in London. As the Wikileaker in chief sits tantalizingly beyond the reach of British police in the Ecuador embassy, he can congratulate himself on a rare trifecta.
By holing up in some corner of a foreign field that is forever Ecuador, he is embarrassing the British government, which prides itself on upholding the law. By resisting Sweden’s demands that he return to Stockholm to face rape charges, he continues to besmirch the justice system of a country otherwise famous as a beacon of liberality and progressivism. And by picking Ecuador, he is drawing attention to his reluctant host’s cruel, despotic regime, which thumbs its nose at democratic governments everywhere.
Add to that a fourth motive – and to Assange perhaps the most important – for his failure to turn himself in: his reproach of America. The reason he cites for not answering sexual assault accusations against him by two women is that Sweden may extradite him to America, where he fears he will be tortured and put to death.
His account of the law is both misleading and inaccurate. Britain could as easily extradite Assange to the U.S. as to Sweden, but it can’t. Like the rest of Europe, Britain may not deliver to America a criminal suspected of a capital crime – spying, in Assange’s case — because America has the death penalty. The same is true of Sweden. But his suggestion that if America could capture him he would be tortured and killed is plausible. And any who doubt his seemingly absurd claim should acquaint themselves with the wretched plight of United States Army Private First Class Bradley Manning.
Manning stands accused of providing Assange with a document dump of secret information in the biggest breach of security ever suffered by America. While the world’s press has reveled in America’s discomfort, the wholesale exposure of secret diplomatic reports has made it more difficult to work toward a peaceful settlement of the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan. If found guilty, Manning deserves to be punished.