'Operation Pelican' to seize Assange involved 15 UK government agents
Secret "Operation Pelican" to seize Assange came into light after being revealed in the memoirs of former UK Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan.
Fresh information revealed that at least 15 people were appointed by the UK government to the secret operation to seize WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Although Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador back in 2012, he was never allowed safe passage out of Britain since he was the target of prosecution by the US.
Assange has been unlawfully charged in the US with 17 counts of "espionage" and one count of computer misuse in connection with WikiLeaks' disclosure of tens of thousands of military and diplomatic documents - whereby Assange exposed the US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan - that whistleblower Chelsea Manning had disclosed.
Belmarsh maximum security prison has been where Assange is being kept in the UK for three and a half years so far as he awaits a potential 175-year sentence following the approval in December 2021 of his extradition to the US by the UK High Court.
The secret operation named ‘Pelican’ to seize Assange from asylum, which eventually took place in April 2019, came to light after being revealed in the memoirs published last year by former Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan.
As foreign minister for the Americas from 2016 to 2019, Duncan was the key British official in the diplomatic negotiations between the UK and Ecuador to release Assange from the Embassy.
In his memoirs, the Former Minister revealed that he watched live footage of Assange’s arrest from the Operations Room of the Foreign Office alongside personnel carrying out the operation.
After the events took place and Assange was imprisoned, Duncan had drinks at his office for the operation team. “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.
See more: Julian Assange mural found in Moscow
Departments deny involvement
The Cabinet Office, whose role is to "support the Prime Minister and ensure the effective running of government” alongside national security and intelligence duties, stated it only had seven in the operation "liaised" with the Metropolitan Police.
It also remains unclear as to why the Cabinet Office would have that much personnel on a police operation such as this since the UK government constantly blocks giving out information about the Assange case.
The Home Office, which oversees MI5, told parliament it had eight officials on the operation which the head of the department has to sign off in order to extradite to most foreign countries. Serving as Home Secretary at the time, Priti Patel, was the one who ordered Assange’s extradition to the US in June.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ), which rules over courts of England and Wales, refused to declare whether they worked on "Operation Pelican", knowing that it also oversees prisons including the Belmarsh maximum security jail. When asked, the MoJ stated, “The information requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.”
On the other hand, the Foreign Office told parliament that it did not “directly assign" staff to "Pelican" and also declined to say if the staff involved were located on its premises.
Rafael Correa, former president of Ecuador from 2007 to 2017, recently disclosed to Declassified UK that the reason why he granted Assange asylum was that Assange “didn’t have any possibility of a fair legal process in the United States.” He further exposed the UK for trying to "deal with us like a subordinate country.”
In September 2021, 30 former US officials went on the record to reveal a CIA plot to “kill or kidnap” Assange in London. In the case of Assange leaving the Embassy, the article noted, “US officials asked their British counterparts to do the shooting if gunfire was required, and the British agreed, according to a former senior administration official.”