The Associated Press has obtained, among thousands of files leaked from Wikileaks, a letter in which Julian Assange sought a Russian visa in a bid to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden to face assault and rape charges there.
The November 30, 2010 letter, addressed to the Russian Consulate in London, reads, “I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa.”
The Russian Consulate states they do not comment on the details of visa applications. Wikileaks issued a statement via Twitter, but did not respond to emails from the AP seeking clarification.
The AP spoke to Israel Shamir about his role in the matter.
Shamir told the AP he was plagued by memory problems and couldn’t remember delivering Assange’s letter or say whether he eventually got the visa on Assange’s behalf.
“I can’t possibly exclude that it happened,” Shamir said in a telephone interview. “I have a very vague memory of those things.”
Shamir’s memory appeared sharper during a January, 20, 2011 interview with Russian News Service radio — a Moscow-based station now known as Life Zvuk, or Life Sound. Shamir said he’d personally brokered a Russian visa for Assange, but that it had come too late to rescue him from the sex crimes investigation.
Russia “would be one of those places where he and his organization would be comfortable operating,” Shamir explained. Asked if Assange had friends in the Kremlin, Shamir smiled and said: “Let’s hope that’s the case.”AP
Politico reports that on the same day the letter is dated, Interpol issued an international arrest warrant, a Red Notice, for Assange’s arrest which thwarted his attempt to flee to Russia. He turned himself in on December 7 and skipped bail in 2012, seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he remains. The sex charges were dropped the next year but he still faces charges for violating the conditions of his bail in the UK and extradition to the US.
Assange faces criminal charges in the US stemming from his role in the release of classified documents in 2010. US officials will be interested in the further revelation of Assange’s relationship with Russia in light of the accusation from the FBI that Wikileaks was given stolen emails from the DNC obtained by Russian hackers during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In 2017, per CNN, then CIA Director Mike Pompeo said, “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that Assange’s arrest is a priority.
Why It Matters
At one time, Wikileaks was roundly praised by Democrats who appreciated Assange’s efforts in revealing the actions of the government and harshly criticized by those on the right, including Sean Hannity who once called for Assange’s arrest. Some on the right changed their opinion of Assange and Wikileaks after the email dumps were nearly exclusively damaging to the Democrats.
After the presidential election, Hannity gave Assange a chance to defend himself in an interview and Sarah Palin penned a Facebook post in which she apologized for her previous criticism.
“To Julian Assange: I apologize,” Palin wrote. “This important information that finally opened people’s eyes to democrat candidates and operatives would not have been exposed were it not for Julian Assange.”Politico
By aligning themselves with Wikileaks, the right is also aligning themselves with Russia.