Ana Miranda: Assange detention has ‘dangerous implications’ for press freedom

Written by Martin Banks on 12 April 2019 in News
News

Greens MEP Ana Miranda has expressed “grave concern” at the detention of Julian Assange and the “dangerous implications” this has for press freedom and the status of political asylum.

Julian Assange | Photo credit: Press Association


It comes after police in London forcibly removed the WikiLeaks founder from the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested him on Thursday after the Ecuadorian Government withdrew asylum.

Assange was taken into police custody for failing to surrender to bail on a US extradition warrant, after Metropolitan police officers were invited into the Knightsbridge embassy.

He had taken refuge there for almost seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation.


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Miranda, a Spanish deputy who had been due to meet Assange at Ecuador's embassy on Monday, said, "I am deeply concerned by the detention of Assange and the circumstances surrounding his arrest.”

"Earlier this week I received confirmation from Ecuador's Ambassador in London of my meeting with Assange next Monday,” added Miranda, a member of the European Free Alliance (EFA) Group in the Parliament.

"Ecuador's withdrawal of asylum for Assange is scandalous and could put him at very real risk of being extradited to a country that seeks revenge for the actions of Wikileaks.”

"There are very dangerous implications for press freedom if we allow people to be imprisoned for publishing leaked information which exposes government wrongdoing.”

"There are very dangerous implications for press freedom if we allow people to be imprisoned for publishing leaked information which exposes government wrongdoing” Ana Miranda MEP

"His arrest and now the US extradition request seems more like vengeance than justice. It is shameful and we denounce it absolutely," she added.

Further reaction also came from UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who, speaking in the Commons on Thursday, said, “I am sure that the whole House will welcome the news this morning that the Metropolitan Police have arrested Julian Assange for breach of bail, after nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy. He has also been arrested in relation to an extradition request from the United States authorities.”

“This is now a legal matter before the courts but I would like to thank the Metropolitan Police for carrying out their duties with great professionalism and to welcome the co-operation of the Ecuadorian government in bringing this matter to a resolution. This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law.”

The Home Office confirmed that the US request for Assange’s extradition was for an alleged “computer-related offence”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Julian Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America. He is accused in the United States of America of computer-related offences.”

The President of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, said on Twitter: “In a sovereign decision Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.”

United States Senator Bob Menendez, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has responded to claims that former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort repeatedly held secret talks with Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy.

Menendez said, “If true, the revelation that Paul Manafort repeatedly met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London raises serious new questions about Manafort’s relationship with WikiLeaks.”

“It is essential that Ecuador’s current government publicly and swiftly confirm whether former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and his administration allowed these meetings to take place.”

“The State Department and the intelligence community must immediately brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Manafort’s interaction with Assange, as well as the Ecuadoran government’s role in any meetings.”

“Similarly, as evidence continues to mount about WikiLeaks interference in the 2016 US election, Ecuador’s government must re-evaluate the risks of harbouring an individual who has damaged democratic processes around the world,” he added.

Assange, meanwhile, is on a shortlist for the second annual GUE/NGL award for “Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right to Information.”

Dedicated to individuals or groups who have been intimidated and/or persecuted for uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public, this year’s award is named in honour of the late Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia.

The winner will be announced at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday and will receive €5,000.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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