The Associated Press reports that "British police have removed the officers standing watch over Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, but say they will still do their best to arrest the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up there since June 2012."
Arrest? Really? Assange has already spent the last three years and four months under de facto house arrest, trapped in the embassy and prevented from traveling to Ecuador proper, where he's been granted political asylum.
And let's make no bones about this: Assange is a political prisoner.
In November of 2010, Sweden's Stockholm District Court issued a falsified European Arrest Warrant for Assange. Such warrants may only be issued pursuant to actual prosecutions, not preliminary investigations.
To date, Assange has been charged with a grand total of zero crimes in Sweden. Director of Public Prosecution Marian Ny wanted to interview Assange, not arrest him, about spurious (and almost certainly politically motivated) rape and molestation allegations.
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On the basis of the bogus warrant, the UK held Assange (on "conditional bail," which also amounted to house arrest at the home of a supporter) for extradition proceedings. After exhausting his appeals, he sought political asylum in Ecuador and took up lodgings at the embassy.
Assange has offered, more than once, to submit to the "interview" Ny has requested -- in the UK or at the embassy. He has even offered to return to Sweden voluntarily, given a guarantee that he wouldn't be handed over to the United States for political prosecution over his work with WikiLeaks. The negative response from Swedish authorities to all these reasonable offers demonstrates exactly the ulterior motive Assange has suspected from the start.
The US Department of "Justice" wants to get its hands on Assange and take vengeance on him for exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as for publishing US State Department cables that revealed various instances of US diplomatic malfeasance (up to and including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's attempts to have the offices of UN diplomats illegally bugged by State Department operatives).
Former US Army private Chelsea Manning is already serving a 35-year sentence -- imposed after an entirely illegal military show trial -- for making the material in question available to Wikileaks. Assange knows that he can expect no less if the US gets its hands on him.
The United Kingdom's government should appreciate the shame it has brought upon itself by conspiring with the Swedish and US regimes to illegally detain Assange for lo on five years now. It's time to free him, publicly apologize to him, and indemnify him for imposing such an entirely unjustifiable loss of freedom on him for so long.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org).