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ON Wednesday, Julian Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador’s embassy in London to stop him being sent back to Sweden and then extradited to the US.

He faces allegations of rape and sexual assault in Sweden, which he claims are without foundation and is willing to defend, as long as he is not then extradited to face a possible death sentence in the US for ‘espionage’.

Assange’s crime in the US is running a website called WikiLeaks. It began with 21-year old American soldier Bradley Manning — detained without trial for over 800 days in solitary confinement — being accused of leaking classified government material to Assange.

WikiLeaks exposed thousands of documents on its website including details of mass murder by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, our government training paramilitary death squads in Bangladesh (held responsible for more than 1,000 killings, kidnap and extortion) and torture at Guantanamo Bay.

Manning was arrested after allegedly leaking a video of a US air raid that showed two Apache helicopters in Baghdad opening fire on men walking in a street in 2007. As they run they’re mowed down, leaving 12 dead, including two Reuters journalists.

The helicopter gunmen are heard on the radio saying: “Light ’em all up”, “look at the dead b*******”, “ha, ha, ha I hit them” and “nice”. As Iraqis tried to take the wounded to hospital in a van, they were opened fire on again, seriously wounding two children and killing their father.

US soldiers claimed it was the Iraqis’ fault for bringing kids and that a camera lens was an insurgent’s AK-47. Manning is said to have leaked 100,000 reports from Afghanistan, 260,000 diplomatic cables and half a million documents relating to the Iraq war.

It’s claimed that the hostility to him from the US and UK is because they believe they have the right to keep their dirty wars and lies secret. When you have crazies in the US calling for Assange to be extradited and executed it’s not surprising he’s holed up in a room in London.

Foreign Secretary William Hague expresses moral outrage at the abuse of international law, yet he’s silent about the war crimes exposed by Assange.

Hague said: “We cannot give safe passage to someone in this situation.” Of course that’s rank hypocrisy. In 1998, former Chilean dictator General Pinochet (friend of Margaret Thatcher) was arrested in the UK and charged with torture, disappearance and mass murder of thousands. He was released and allowed safe passage back to Chile.

Or there was Israeli Major General Doron Almog, wanted on an international warrant for alleged war crimes in occupied Palestine.

Facing arrest by British police in 2005, our Government tipped him off as his plane landed on UK soil and allowed his flight to leave Heathrow, giving him safe passage back to Israel. I could go on but I wouldn’t have enough pages for my column.

Hague’s Foreign Office should stick to what they know best, wining and dining murdering thugs.

As for Assange, if the US wants him, let’s do a swap so George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Henry Kissinger can stand trial with Tony Blair for war crimes.