Ecuador sought job at em­bassy for As­sange

Calgary Herald - - NEWS - Raphael Sat­teR

• Ju­lian As­sange: Hacker. Jour­nal­ist. Diplo­mat?

Newly-re­leased Ecuadorean govern­ment doc­u­ments have laid bare an un­ortho­dox at­tempt to ex­tri­cate the Wik­iLeaks founder from his em­bassy hide­away in Lon­don by nam­ing him as a po­lit­i­cal coun­sel­lor to the coun­try’s em­bassy in Moscow.

But the 47-year-old Aus­tralian’s new ca­reer in in­ter­na­tional af­fairs was nipped in the bud when Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties ve­toed his diplo­matic sta­tus, ef­fec­tively block­ing him from tak­ing up the post in Rus­sia.

The files were made pub­lic late Tues­day by Ecuadorean op­po­si­tion law­maker Paola Vin­timilla, who op­poses her govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to grant As­sange na­tion­al­ity. They largely cor­rob­o­rate a re­cent Guardian news­pa­per re­port that Ecuador at­tempted the elab­o­rate ma­noeu­vre to get As­sange to Moscow just be­fore Christ­mas last year.

Rus­sian diplo­mats called the Guardian’s story “fake news,” but the govern­ment files show As­sange briefly was made “po­lit­i­cal coun­sel­lor” to the Ecuadorean Em­bassy in Moscow and el­i­gi­ble for a monthly salary pegged at US$2,000.

Ecuador also ap­plied for a diplo­matic ID card, the doc­u­ments show, but the plan ap­pears to have fallen apart with the Bri­tish veto.

A let­ter dated Dec. 21, 2017, from Bri­tain’s For­eign Of­fice said U.K. of­fi­cials “do not con­sider Mr. Ju­lian As­sange to be an ac­cept­able mem­ber of the mis­sion.”

An eight-page memo to Vin­timilla sum­ming up the episode noted that As­sange’s po­si­tion as coun­sel­lor was scrapped a few days later.

Wik­iLeaks did not re­turn mes­sages. The Bri­tish For­eign Of­fice and the Rus­sian Em­bassy in Lon­don de­clined to com­ment.

As­sange’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties has been the sub­ject of in­tense scru­tiny fol­low­ing the 2016 U.S. elec­tion, when Rus­sian spies are al­leged to have handed Wik­iLeaks leaked emails from pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign in a bid to help elect her ri­val, Don­ald Trump.

As­sange has de­nied re­ceiv­ing the files from the Rus­sian govern­ment or back­ing the Trump cam­paign, de­spite a grow­ing body of ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing he re­ceived ma­te­rial di­rectly from Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence agency and co-or­di­nated me­dia strat­egy with Trump’s son, Don­ald Trump Jr.

Last month, The As­so­ci­ated Press pub­lished in­ter­nal Wik­iLeaks files show­ing As­sange tried to move to Rus­sia as early as 2010.

As­sange has been holed up in the em­bassy for more than six years. The fa­mous whistle­blower and com­puter en­gi­neer faces an ar­rest war­rant in the U.K. for not mak­ing a bail pay­ment. He fears if he leaves the em­bassy he could be ar­rested and then ex­tra­dited to the U.S., where of­fi­cials have spo­ken about pros­e­cut­ing him for steal­ing clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. Pre­vi­ous sex­ual as­sault charges filed against him in Swe­den have been dropped.

Ju­lian As­sange

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