Here’s more fodder for those movies gearing up about WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange. After months of house arrest in Britain and an eight-week stint hiding out in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, Assange was today granted asylum by Ecuador. Britain then threw down the gauntlet and vowed to extradite Assange anyway. The controversial figure had been awaiting extradition to Sweden on allegations that he sexually assaulted two women. In June, he entered the embassy and petitioned for asylum, fearing that Sweden would ultimately surrender him to the U.S. – which would also like to prosecute him. Via WikiLeaks, Assange has caused embarrassment to and drawn the ire of the U.S government for publishing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and classified documents. Ecuador said it granted the asylum because it believes Assange would be politically persecuted if extradited.
Assange is currently the subject of a host of TV and film projects (and until recently was himself hosting talk show World Of Tomorrow from the house in England where he was holed before moving to the embassy). Australian TV movie, Underground, starring Rachel Griffiths, Anthony LaPaglia and newcomer Alex Williams as a young Assange, is debuting in Toronto next month. NBCU International will start sales at the festival. Then there’s the WikiLeaks feature that’s being developed by DreamWorks. Deadline recently reported that Jeremy Renner is looking at playing Assange in that one and that the studio is talking to Bill Condon about directing. Further, Universal and Marc Shmuger have an Alex Gibney-directed documentary, and HBO, Universal and Megan Ellison are also working on films.
Back in the real world, Ecuador’s move could force a stand-off between it and the UK that would be worthy of the bigscreen. In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government’s decision this afternoon does not change that.”
Former British ambassador to Moscow, Tony Brenton told the BBC: “I think the Foreign Office have slightly overreached themselves here… If we live in a world where governments can arbitrarily revoke diplomatic immunity and go into embassies then the life of our diplomats and their ability to conduct business in places like Moscow where I was and North Korea becomes close to impossible.”