Monday, April 11, 2011

Julian Assange Discusses Revolutions And India

By Jerry Smith Apr 11 2011

Last Friday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sat down with The Hindu’s Editor-in-Chief, N. Ram and the newspaper’s U.K. Correspondent, Hasan Suroor.

They discussed India, the published India cables, the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, journalism, WikiLeaks and more.

The following excerpts come from the interview, which lasted about an hour and took place at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, where Assange is staying while he is under house arrest and fighting being extradited to Sweden.

Assange has been fighting extradition to Sweden where he has not been charged with anything but is wanted for questioning by the Swedish police about accusations of rape and sexual molestation made against him by Sofia Wilen and Anna Ardin. Assange denies these allegations and says he had consensual sex with the two women.

Assange and his lawyers fear that if he is extradited to Sweden he may then be extradited to the United States, where he could face torture, confinement at Guantanamo Bay, both, or even the death penalty.

Assange has angered the United States with the publishing of leaked embarrassing diplomatic cables, the classified documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the 'Collateral Murder' video.

When asked about India and the published India cables, Assange said:
"I am very encouraged by what’s happened in India, for The Hindu that’s 21 front pages and there’s a spectrum of publishing in India which I think eclipses that of The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and The New York Times, and El Pais, which were our original partners, although some of them had also done some very fine work."

"I am tempted to say, based upon my reading of The Hindu that it is in a position to report more freely than these other papers are in their respective countries. That may be, I suspect, not just as a result of the strength of The Hindu but as a result of the weakness of the Indian federal government as a structure that is able to pull together patronage networks and suppress journalism as a whole in India."

"While it’s certainly true that each one of the factions involved in Indian national politics is able to exert pressures, I think it is encouraging that India as a whole has not turned into one central pyramid of patronage, which is something we do see a bit in other countries like the United States."
When asked about Rudolf Elmer and his material, Assange said:
"Rudolf Elmer has been put in prison and he has been there for some eight, ten weeks now. But he’s not been charged with anything; there’s no evidence against him. He is in a position where he has severely embarrassed the Swiss state, which gains nearly 50 per cent of its GDP from Swiss banking, and Switzerland holds nearly one-third of all the world’s private wealth. So we of course are not in a position to be able to talk about the material in any direct way that he is alleged to have given us."
When asked about the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, Assange said:
"The MENA [Middle East and North Africa] countries that have been going through an extraordinary spring in the last few months; not just Tunisia and Egypt and parts of Libya but rather really the whole region. Kings who have not been deposed or Presidents and dictators who have not been deposed have been handing out tremendous concessions in order to stay in power."

"So we, working together with Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper, and Almasry Alyoum in Cairo in early December, started publishing many cables from around this region. Al-Akhbar was then immediately attacked and had its entire domain name taken down and redirected to a Saudi site, received denial service attacks, and then very sophisticated computer hackers came in and took out all of Al-Akhbar."

"The Tunisian Government banned WikiLeaks and Al-Akhbar. Computer hackers loyal to us went into Tunisian government websites and redirected them to WikiLeaks. On December 16, a young computer technician who was working in the market place trying to sell fruit and had been denied a licence because of corruption set himself on fire. And, on January 4, he died in hospital. That event took the political revelations and the geo-political revelations from the cables and the protests associated with that into the physical realm and really pushed the ground protest."

"The cables themselves for Tunisia, yes they revealed corruption and opulence and decadence within the Ben Ali family. Which was not something that was that unknown to Tunisians but it was outside proof of it."

"Further, it showed that the U.S. diplomatic position was such that they would probably support the army over Ben Ali if it came to a struggle between the two. That gave activists and the army in Tunisia great hope and it also sent a warning to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region that they should not interfere to support Ben Ali or they might end up on the wrong side of the equation with the West."

"The Tunisian cables revealing that the State Department had been speaking of the abuses of the Ben Ali regime and its corruption, and human rights abuses, prevented the United States, prevented Hillary Clinton from coming out and saying, ‘Ben Ali is a great guy, he should stay, he should be supported,’ etc."

"The allies of the United States in Western Europe such as France and the U.K. also could not say frankly that they supported the regime when U.S. Ambassadors were making such critical comments."

"We had the soccer clubs in Egypt form the central organising role for the young revolutionaries. So it was not the Muslim Brotherhood, as Mubarak and people in the United States and all the others who were trying to support that regime suggested it would be."

"The revolution came from the average man and the average man as a young man was engaged in soccer clubs. They produced a revolutionary manual of some 40 pages. On the first page of the manual, it says, ‘do not use Facebook and Twitter’ and the last page of the manual says, ‘do not use Facebook and Twitter.’ Later on we saw Hillary Clinton and others trying to claim that the U.S. had supported this revolution all along and it was a result of good American companies like Facebook and Twitter. But the guide that the revolutionaries used said to avoid that. Rather, Facebook and Twitter were used by people in the West and by the expat community to spread information about what was happening in Egypt."

"We did feed in very specific cables into the situation and poured as much oil on to this fire as we could by releasing hundreds of cables about the Egyptian regime and specifically about Mubarak’s abuses and (Omar) Suleiman."

"We released cable after cable showing how the U.S. ambassadors had said that Suleiman takes care of suppression of various groups in Egypt and Mubarak is happy to turn a blind eye to his methods."

"Other cables came out suggesting that Suleiman had personally been involved in supervising the torture of one or two Canadian men who had been renditioned to Egypt. That statement made it impossible for the U.S. to support Suleiman aggressively and publicly."
Assange said about Saudi Arabia:
"When we released cables about the region as a whole, including Saudi Arabia, those countries were forced to turn inwards and look at their own domestic political concerns. Saudi Arabia, for instance, started out handing concession after concession to its own domestic Shia population."
This is part one of the interview which will be continued.

Click here to read the whole first part of the interview.


  1. Are they ever going to let out Rudolf Elmer?

  2. AnonymousJune 19, 2011

    nice interview.

  3. AnonymousJune 22, 2011

    I wonder when it will be continued?