UK Govt Deployed 15 Staff On Secret Op To Seize Assange

According to newly released documents, the British government deployed at least 15 people to the Secret Op to take Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

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Although Ecuador granted political refuge to the WikiLeaks founder in 2012, he was never given permission to leave Britain in a safe manner to escape prosecution by the United States government.

The Australian journalist has spent the last three and a half years in Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison and could receive a 175-year sentence after the High Court of England and Wales approved (pdf below) his extradition to the United States in December 2021.

The secret Metropolitan Police investigation known as “Pelican” eventually resulted in the arrest of Assange from his asylum in April 2019. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises asylum as a right.

The operation’s existence was finally made public in Sir Alan Duncan’s memoirs, which were released last year. In response to requests for information about the Assange case, the U.K. government frequently delays or obscures its responses.

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Alan Duncan. (Chris McAndrew, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

However, the Cabinet Office recently informed Parliament that Operation Pelican was being carried out by seven officials. Although the department’s primary responsibility is to “support the Prime Minister and ensure the proper running of government,” it also performs intelligence and national security responsibilities.

Why the Cabinet Office would have so many employees working on a police operation of this nature is not immediately apparent. When questioned about their involvement in the operation, the Cabinet Office stated that these seven individuals “liaised” with the Metropolitan Police.

Meanwhile, the Home Office informed Parliament that eight employees were engaged in the Pelican project. The Home Office is in charge of MI5, and extraditions to the majority of foreign nations require the department head’s approval. Assange’s extradition to the United States was ordered in June by the then-home secretary, Priti Patel.

‘Disproportionate Cost’

Other government agencies, such as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), declined to confirm whether they had people working on Pelican.

The MoJ is in charge of the courts in England and Wales, where a decision regarding whether to hear an appeal in Assange’s extradition case is now being made. It also maintains authority over its prisons, notably the high-security Belmarsh facility where Assange is detained.

The MoJ responded, “The information requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost,” when questioned about whether any of its employees were working for Pelican.

Why the Home Office, a larger organisation with more personnel, was able to respond to the question while the MoJ was unable to is unclear. The government would be embarrassed if it were discovered that the MoJ had personnel assigned to Pelican for no apparent reason.

While refusing to confirm if personnel involved in the operation were based on its grounds, the Foreign Office informed Parliament that it did not have any employees “directly assigned” to Pelican.

‘Julian Assange’s Special Brexit Team’

The most important British official in the diplomatic negotiations between the U.K. and Ecuador to remove Assange from the embassy was Sir Alan Duncan, who served as foreign minister for the Americas from 2016 to 2019. In his autobiography, he stated that he and Pelican staff members saw a live broadcast of Assange’s arrest from the Operations Room at the top of the Foreign Office.

After Assange was detained in Belmarsh, Duncan hosted a cocktail party for the Pelican team at his office.

“I gave them each a signed photo which we took in the Ops Room on the day, with a caption saying ‘Julian Assange’s Special Brexit Team 11th April 2019,’” he wrote. 

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In a recent interview with Declassified, Rafael Correa, the former president of Ecuador from 2007 to 2017, said that he gave Assange shelter because the Australian journalist “didn’t have any possibility of a fair legal process in the United States.”

He added that the U.K. government “tried to deal with us like a subordinate country.”

30 former U.S. officials came forward in September 2021 to discuss a C.I.A. plot to “kill or kidnap” Assange in London. According to a former senior administration official, in the event that Assange left the embassy, “US officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed.”

The Home Office most likely provided these assurances.

Read the report given below:

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