Is WikiLeaks a secret-spilling organization or a legal outfit devoted to extradition disputes? The group that once made headlines for exposing government secrets seems dedicated now to prevent governments from sending controversial figures — first and foremost, founder Julian Assange — across internatonal borders.
The last time we checked in with Assange he was cooped up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on sex crime allegations, and, believe it or not, he's still there, five weeks later, hanging out in a "small room and adjoining corridor" and using the exercise equipment he's been given, reports The Guardian. As we suspected in June, Ecuador got cold feet over the idea of whisking Assange to South America so hastily, a move that would surely have enraged the UK which still considers Assange a fugitive, and is now looking for a way to unload the white-haired WikiLeaks founder. According to The Guardian, that means seeking assurances from Sweden and the UK that Assange would not be extradited to the U.S. should he be transported to the Nordic country. (Assange says he fears he'll be executed in America for leaking thousands of U.S. government secrets). One would imagine life as an embassy refugee isn't conducive to running a worldwide secret-leaking operation but no biggie, the organization seems to have found a new cause.
Its latest pet project is Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson who's a kindred spirit of Assange given that both men believe extradition requests will result in their ultimate demise. Watson, an anti-whaling activist whose exploits against the Japanese whaling fleet are documented in Animal Planet's show Whale Wars, skipped bail and fled Germany this week because he feared that if authorities granted an extradition application from Costa Rica, that country would promptly hand him over to Japan — a development the WikiLeaks account is eagerly tweeting about. The Cosa Rican charges go back to 2002, when fishermen accused Watson of trying to kill them after he allegedly rammed their ship. The Sea Shepherd group claims it found the fishers involved in an illegal shark finning operation and simply told them to stop. Now the fan base for the two rogue activists is beginning to coalesce. "Assange and Watson. Modern day heroes trying to protect the rights of others, but no government willing to protect them," tweets a WikiLeaks follower. The above image appears on the official Wikileaks forum.
WikiLeaks other recent preoccupation is Assange's new hot-shot lawyer, former Spanish investigating magistrate Baltasar Garzon, the global human rights activist who earned his rock star status (there's even a hashtag for #Garzon) for, as The Wall Street Journal notes, "cross-border justice by indicting former South American dictators and alleged Islamic terrorists." Garzon's most prominent case (in Spain investigating magistrates are sort of a mix of prosecutor and judge) for issuing an arrest warrant in 1998 against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet for crimes against Spanish citizens in Chile and demanding his extradition from the U.K. In 2000, the U.K. abandoned extradition proceedings and Pinochet headed back to Chile where he died in 2006. Still, the case is considered a landmark in "universal jurisdiction," and Garzon will now be arguing the opposite side in the cross-border justice business to keep Assange out of Sweden and America. (Oh, in cause you're curious—his record isn't exactly squeaky clean: Garzon was disbarred by Spain's Supreme Court for illegally ordering wiretappings.) Still, the two appear to be getting along well. According to a recent WikiLeaks statement, Assange and Garzon met recently "to discuss the new legal strategy, which will defend both WikiLeaks and Julian Assange from the existing abuse of process." You can count on Garzon to raise intellectually interesting issues regarding international law and extradition. But WikiLeaks donors, who have increasingly dried up, may be asking another question: When's the next leak?
Update: As a reader noted, donors may not have to wait too long. The next load of Syria leaks should come out soon.