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Glenn Greenwald on Julian Assange, Ecuador & Threats to Press Freedom

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WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange is at risk of being removed from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has taken refuge for nearly six years, CNN reports. If he is forced out of the embassy, Assange could face arrest by British authorities and extradition to the United States. The Ecuadorean government cut off Assange’s internet in March. Former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa told The Intercept that the government has also blocked Assange from receiving visitors, calling the tactic “torture.” Correa said that Ecuador was not maintaining “normal sovereign relations with the American government—just submission.” In other Assange news, last month the Democratic National Committee sued WikiLeaks for its role in publishing hacked materials relating to the 2016 election. We speak with Glenn Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro, who wrote last month for The Intercept that “the DNC’S lawsuit against WikiLeaks poses a serious threat to press freedom.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, co-founder of The Intercept. Glenn, you wrote that former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, in an exclusive interview with The Intercept, denounced his country’s current government for blocking Julian Assange from receiving visitors in the embassy in London as a form of torture and a violation of Ecuador’s duties to protect Assange’s safety and well-being. Can you talk about what’s happening with Julian Assange? We’re reading reports that the Ecuadorean Embassy—that he might be leaving the embassy, which of course would mean he would be arrested by the British government. What do you understand is taking place?

GLENN GREENWALD: There is clearly a danger that the current Ecuadorean government, which has become much more subservient and compliant with the demands of Western governments, including those in the U.S. and the U.K. and in Spain, is willing to trade away the protections that Ecuador, for seven years, has maintained it owes to Julian Assange because of the likelihood that he will be persecuted, not in Sweden, but in the United States. Remember, the case in Sweden for sexual assault, the investigation has been dropped and closed. That’s no longer pending.

What the concern is, is the Trump administration, specifically Mike Pompeo, who at the time was the director of the CIA and is now the secretary of state, along with Jeff Sessions, has said that arresting Julian Assange and putting him in prison is a priority because of the leaks of documents that WikiLeaks has published, because of the journalism that they’ve done, which just this week the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists have said would pose a grave threat to the First Amendment.

So when I interviewed President Correa, he was saying, essentially, that the way in which Julian Assange has been silenced, by blocking his access to the internet, by denying him visitors from the outside world with the exception of his lawyers and a couple other people, is a violation of his human rights. He’s an Ecuadorean citizen. He has formal asylum from Ecuador. And they owe him an obligation to protect his health and safety.

And at the same time, doctors who have examined him say that he has very grave threats to his health and can’t get treatment for it because of a situation in the embassy. So, no matter what you think of Julian Assange, there are serious threats to press freedom being posed and to questions of asylum and the sovereignty of the Ecuadorean government by what’s taking place.

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