French Sec. of State Would Consider Asylum for Julian Assange

Wiki Leaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks during a news conference in central London. — AP

When Julian Assange learned of his imminent arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London Thursday, he wasn't even allowed to go back to his room, because authorities feared he would hit a reported "panic button" with potentially disastrous effects, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Assange's arrest was evidently carried out on US orders, state news agency Tass reported. Press freedom in Russian Federation is extremely limited, and the country ranked 148 out of 180 nations in the Reporters Without Borders 2018 Press Freedom Index.

The US confirmed it would seek the extradition of Assange from the United Kingdom, prompting immediate concerns over journalistic protections under the first amendment.

Assange, 47, an Australian computer programmer, started the WikiLeaks website in 2006. Assange first fled to the safety of the Ecuadoran Embassy not to escape the reach of the USA, but because of law enforcement moves by Sweden, where Assange had been accused of sexual offenses during a visit to the country two years before.

The Assange prosecution "would be unprecedented and unconstitutional and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations", the ACLU's Ben Wizner tells Sullivan. But the line there is a little too close for comfort for me, and many others.

Prosecutors say Assange and Manning tried to hide Manning's role as a source by deleting chat logs and removing usernames from sensitive records that were shared.

In a grueling 18-month legal case, during which he was under partial house arrest, Assange's team called upon Swedish legal experts who suggested that Ny had mishandled the case and that she had a bias against men. Though prosecutors dropped this investigation, Assange still faced British charges of failing to appear in front of a court when ordered to.

Assange and his supporters say he's a journalist who deserves legal protections for publishing stolen material. Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Eva-Marie Persson noted that the statute of limitations for the rape case would not run out until 2020.

In a presentation before the Ecuadorian parliament on Thursday, foreign minister José Valencia listed as many as nine reasons why Assange's asylum had been lifted, the most prominent being his organization's meddling in global affairs.

Correa told CNN Thursday that the decision by his successor to revoke Assange's asylum status was "the biggest betrayal perhaps in Latin American history".

It was long known by the Obama DOJ and was explicitly part of Manning's trial, yet the Obama DOJ-not exactly renowned for being stalwart guardians of press freedoms-concluded it could not and should not prosecute Assange because indicting him would pose serious threats to press freedom.

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