The price tag for the United Kingdom's siege of the Ecuadorean embassy in London hit £10 million (US$15 million) Thursday.
A WikiLeaks spokesperson pointed out the cost of the controversial police operation has now exceeded the budget of the country’s Iraq War inquiry. The inquiry was established in 2009 to critique the U.K.'s role in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The broad public inquiry is expected to have a final cost of roughly £10 million.
Pro-WikiLeaks website govwaste.co.uk says the amount of “U.K. taxpayer money wasted 'guarding' Assange” could have been used to provide people in need with over 8 million meals, or cover the costs of sending nearly 18,000 children to school for a year.
The Embassy Siege
British police have surrounded the embassy since June 2012, when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed asylum there. Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden in relation to allegations of sexual offenses.
The high profile hacktivist says he fears Sweden may hand him over to U.S. authorities, who he has accused of plotting to prosecute him for his role at WikiLeaks. Although Ecuador has granted Assange asylum, U.K. authorities have refused to allow the WikiLeaks founder safe passage to the South American nation. Instead, authorities deployed police to surround the embassy, with orders to arrest Assange if he tries to leave.
U.K. authorities have previously threatened to forcibly enter the embassy to capture Assange, but backed down after the Ecuadorian government slammed the proposal as a violation of international norms.
Australian-British journalist and Assange supporter John Pilger has described the U.K.'s response to the asylum standoff as a “farce.”
“For two years, an exaggerated, costly police presence around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state,” Pilger argued in November 2014.
“Their quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, a refugee from gross injustice whose only security is the room given him by a brave South American country. His true crime is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war,” he stated.
Check out teleSUR English's interview with Assange.