It was easy to see it coming. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange formally asked for asylum in France in a letter sent to Le Monde. Over the past couple of weeks, WikiLeaks dropped multiple documents related to France and Germany. We learned that the NSA monitored French presidents and officials, spied on top French companies and eavesdropped Angela Merkel for sure.
As always, WikiLeaks is looking to generate the maximum amount of outrage with its revelations. To do this, the organization partners with media organizations in multiple countries. This time, WikiLeaks has worked with Libération and Mediapart in France (two left-leaning outlets), and Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany.
While the new revelations from WikiLeaks are interesting, it also shows that Assange has his own personal agenda. It will be interesting to see whether he will adopt the same strategy with another country in the coming months.
Assange’s letter is long and wordy. It goes on and on about all the reasons why he shouldn’t be judged by an American court, why he is forced to stay in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, and why it would make sense for the French President François Hollande to let Assange come to France.
Interestingly, the French President statement is short and straight to the point. It was released just a couple of hours after Assange’s request. Here it is, translated from French:
France has received Mr. Assange’s letter. A careful examination shows that, given the judicial and material situation of Mr. Assange, France cannot accept his request. Mr. Assange’s situation isn’t in jeopardy. There is also a European arrest warrant against him.
Update: Assange’s lawyer Baltasar Garzon published a statement as both Le Monde and the French President misinterpreted Assange’s letter as a request for asylum. “My client has stated that, if the competent French authorities decided to give him protection, he would receive this offer positively,” Garzon wrote. It seems obvious that Assange was looking for asylum with his letter even though he didn’t ask the president directly.
Contrary to what has been assumed by various media as well as the [initial] statements of the French Presidency, Baltasar Garzon, director of Julian Assange’s legal team, clarifies in the clearest terms that Julian Assange has not submitted an asylum request to the French Republic.
His letter was a response to the declarations of Christiane Taubira, Minister of Justice, and to an open letter from French civil society, signed by over forty major public figures, calling for him to be protected by France.
My client has stated that, if the competent French authorities decided to give him protection, he would receive this offer positively. No part of the letter that was sent to the President of the Republic of France can be interpreted in any different way.
The legal defense team of Mr. Assange questions the “exhaustive analisis that the French Presidency has made of the letter in less than an hour, and the reasons that brought them to pronounce themselves in such a hurry.