For a few hours before Ecuador’s announcement that it would grant the WikiLeaks founder political asylum, and for 12 hours after the announcement, #Assange trended on Twitter across Julian Assange’s homeland, Australia.
It was as though the void left by the London Olympics was filled by the oddly mesmerizing spectacle of a widely anticipated decision, well ahead of the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministers’ blistering critique of Great Britain, the United States and Sweden and the parlous situation in which the white-haired Assange finds himself.
As Assange’s supporters rallied in London outside the Ecuadorian Embassy where he has been holed up for 58 days, in Australia the political elite seemed to be scurrying to the safety of black letter law.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has made no comment in the wake of Ecuador’s decision and it’s unlikely she will, formally. In the political typhoon of the 24-hour news cycle she will no doubt be asked for her reaction to Ecuador’s clear belief that it is offering Assange support denied him by his own government.
Her response is expected to echo the PR-filtered offering of her usually loquacious — but suddenly media shy — Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr. His spokesperson told CNN that having watched events unfold through the night, the Assange drama has “elements of fascination, in particular the strong statements on the United States.”
Australia appears to be narrowly interpreting the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister’s statement that “… Mr Assange is without the due protection and help that he should receive from any state of which he is a citizen,” as an assertion that consular assistance has been denied.
“He has received 62 instances of consular contact in the last 18 months — more than any other Australian in comparable circumstances,” the spokesman said. “We don’t expect him to be thanking us, but to suggest he didn’t receive it is wrong. …
If criminals ran the world, they would make it a crime to expose their crimes.