x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Strange bed-fellows

How ironic that Julian Assange, scourge of diplomats worldwide, should now be sheltering at their mercy

There is more than a little irony in the fact that Julian Assange, the Australian founder of Wikileaks, is evading extradition from Britain to Sweden by remaining inside the 10-room London office building that serves as the Ecuadorean embassy.

Wikileaks describes itself as a champion of transparency and an opponent of "oppressive regimes", but it must be remembered that Mr Assange sought, and was granted, asylum from Ecuador - a country where, the Committee to Protect Journalists says, "freedom of expression is under siege" - rather than face accusations of rape in Sweden, where the legal system is transparent and the judiciary independent.

This is something Mr Assange may care to consider at his leisure, while experiencing conditions his supporter Gavin MacFadyen described to the Associated Press as "not quite the Hilton". The building has no bedrooms, but there is a kitchenette, and a shower has been installed.The UK Government has made it clear that if he leaves, he will be arrested.

Meanwhile, the worlds' diplomats, whose top-secret dispatches to their governments were obtained and published by Wikileaks may be quietly chuckling to themselves, thinking happily that Mr Assange's punishment fits his crime.