(MintPress) – Icelandic officials have banned the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after it showed up in the country unannounced to investigate WikiLeaks, a news organization founded by Julian Assange that exposes otherwise secret government files, often relating to human rights and foreign policy.
“I, for one, was not aware that they were coming to Iceland,” Iceland’s Interior Minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, told the Associated Press. “When I learned about it, I demanded that Icelandic police cease all cooperation and made it clear that people interviewed or interrogated in Iceland should be interrogated by Icelandic police.”
In the midst of a near-global hunt for Assange, Iceland has taken a neutral, if not pro-Assange and WikiLeaks stance. The nation’s capital, Reykjavik, is home to DataCell, a company that helps WikiLeaks stay in business through its anonymous donation avenues. Mastercard and Visa suspended access to WikiLeaks. It’s is also home to high-profile WikiLeaks supporters, including Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Parliament. Assange also helped draft legislation in Iceland related to its media laws.
At a time when most nations have given into the U.S. in its quest to have Assange delivered to its jurisdiction, the small country of Iceland is saying, “no.”
In the U.S., he’s considered a wanted man. Assange’s WikiLeaks has been behind the release of more than 220 diplomatic U.S. cables, including documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents have proved embarrassing for the U.S., and have shook the Justice Department as it has attempted to investigate WikiLeaks, cut off its funding and discover how the news organization obtains its material.
In 2010, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Assange, if extradited to the U.S., would be held accountable under the Espionage Act of 1917. If convicted under that act, Assange could face the death penalty.
The U.S. got close to its wish to try Assange on American land when the native Australian sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has remained since. If arrested, he would likely be transported to the U.S., where his trial could take place under a veil of secrecy, given the nature of his potential charges.
While Assange has remained protected in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the U.S. has not given up its fight to capture Assange. Its visit to Iceland was likely in relation to the hunt for the WikiLeaks founder.
“One of the major issues surrounding the Assange case is whether ‘we (the United States) can drag his ass over here,’” federal criminal defense attorney and former CIA official David Adler said at a Houston Law and Media Seminar on WikiLeaks.
The FBI’s most recent visit to Iceland provides more insight into the global hunt to bring down Assange.
“We made it clear to the American authorities that this was not seen well by us,” Jonasson said.