In an interview with the SCMP, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that Edward Snowden was ‘unlikely to have received asylum in Hong Kong’, hinting at the reasons behind the NSA whistleblower flight to Russia.
Speaking from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he took refuge over a year ago to avoid extradition to Sweden to face a sexual assault investigation, Assange revealed Wikileaks’ role in Snowden’s decision to seek protection from (noted proponent of free-speech and human rights) Vladimir Putin:
We legally analysed his situation … and conveyed to him that very few refugees who applied for asylum in Hong Kong had received it. However, we assessed there was a 65 per cent chance he would win his extradition case … that he would ultimately prevail; that is the nature of the politics of the Hong Kong government and the Chinese politburo.
Hong Kong’s law is such that during an extradition case there is a presumption against bail, so that while he was running that case, which would have gone for years, he’d have been in prison.
Two weeks after claiming that he wanted the people of Hong Kong to decide his fate, and lauding the city’s commitment to free speech, Snowden flew to Moscow with Wikileaks “legal advisor” and Assange-ally Sarah Harrison.
“For that period of time, he was the world’s most wanted man by the world’s most powerful government and its full intelligence apparatus,” Assange told the SCMP.
Assange — who recently endorsed a far-right party in the Australian elections — described himself as a “people smuggler” for helping to arrange Snowden’s successful asylum application in Russia.
Recent revelations that Snowden stayed in the Russian consulate in Hong Kong, as well as Assange’s own comments, have cast doubt on whether the NSA whistleblower — who always emphasised his commitment to free speech and libertarian politics — ever intended to leave Russia after flying to Moscow.
Hundreds of journalists have been killed in Russia since Vladimir Putin’s ascension to the presidency in 2000. In Reporters Without Borders’ most recent Press Freedom Index, Russia ranks at 146th, just above Iraq and Burma. Snowden’s decision to seek Russian protection has in fact led to the country upgrading its own domestic internet spying program, according to the New York Times.
[Image credit: @acidpolly]