Julian Assange’s asylum stalemate no nearer resolution one year on
The Ecuadorean embassy’s celebrity refugee is used to living in what Assange likens to a space station as he battles extradition. Read more…
Diplomat brings up subject of WikiLeaks founder taking refuge in embassy at meeting with shadow foreign secretary
Ecuadorean diplomats have raised the case of Julian Assange with the Labour party as part of attempts to lay the groundwork for a resolution of the diplomatic standoff between Britain and the South American state over the WikiLeaks’ founder.
As part of its continuing search for an end to the impasse, Ecuador has been seeking a commitment from the coalition that it would not support Assange’s onward extradition to the US should he choose to go to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
In an indication that the Ecuadoreans are now also setting their sights on a possible change of government after the 2015 election, Ecuador’s ambassador, Ana Alban, raised Assange’s case during a meeting with the shadow foreign minister, Kerry McCarthy.
The meeting had been requested by Ecuador to discuss environmental issues and bilateral trade, and the Labour side were taken by surprise when the Australian’s case was raised by the Ecuadoreans towards the end of the meeting.
A Labour source was eager to distance the party from the issue, saying: “The meeting was on the basis of a discussion about other issues and was one part of a series of regular contact meetings with foreign governments in London.
“This [Assange] is not a policy issue for the Labour party.”
The WikiLeaks founder has been living in the embassy in central London since June in order to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual offences. There is a permanent police guard and he will be arrested if he leaves the premises.
Ecuadorean diplomats have been in discussions with the Swedish and UK governments since Assange unexpectedly sought refuge at the embassy.
Discussions last year focused on what was likely to happen to him once legal proceedings in Sweden were completed, according to the Ecuadoreans.
A senior legal adviser to the embassy has said that the home secretary, Theresa May, would need to waive specialty – a legal concept that ensures an individual can only be extradited to one country – under section 58 of the Extradition Act 2003 before Assange could be extradited from Sweden to the US.
The Foreign Office has stated that the UK has a binding legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden to face questioning over the allegations.
Swedish prosecutors have dismissed claims that their case is part of a political move to see Assange stand trial in the US over his work with WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks founder tells CNN he could leave Ecuadorean compound in London if ‘immoral investigation’ is dropped
Julian Assange has said he will not consider leaving the Ecuadorean embassy in London unless the US government drops its “immoral” investigation into WikiLeaks.
Assange has been sheltering in the embassy since June as part of his attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations. He fears he will ultimately be sent to the United States to face interrogation over the whistleblowing website, which he founded.
In a CNN interview in the embassy, Assange said the standoff could end if the US government drops its investigation. “It’s an immoral investigation,” he said. “It breaches the first amendment, it breaches all the principles that the US government says it stands for and it absolutely breaches the principles the founding fathers stood for and which most of the US people believe in.”
Assange broke his bail conditions in June when he took refuge in the embassy in Knightsbridge after he lost a supreme court challenge to the validity of the European arrest warrant that demanded his return to Sweden for questioning. He was due to be sent within days when he took up residence in the diplomatic mission having been granted political asylum.
His lawyers and the Ecuadorean government contend that travelling to Sweden could lead to his extradition to the US, where he could face charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of US diplomatic cables.
US soldier Bradley Manning is two years into his military solitary confinement for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of US state secrets, many of which ended up on the WikiLeaks website. He is currently awaiting trial and could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.
“There’s an attempt to extradite me without charge and without evidence, allegedly for the purpose of questioning,” said Assange. “Meanwhile, the FBI has been engaged in building this tremendous case, now up to 41,235 pages.”
In the interview, Assange compared life in the embassy to “living on a space station”. “There’s no natural light,” he said. “You have got to make all your own stuff. You can’t go out to the shops. But I’ve been in solitary confinement. I know what life is like for prisoners – [this is] a lot better than it is for prisoners.”
His interview came after WikiLeaks released more than 100 US defence department files on Thursday disclosing the military’s detention policies in Guantanamo Bay and Iraq, dating from the September 11 attacks until 2004.
Assange said the documents showed that “policies of unaccountability” had allowed prisoners to be abused with impunity. The destruction of video interviews or the failure to record them, as revealed in the files, had led to a situation “where abuse can occur and it can’t be discovered”.
Ecuador prepared to set up operating theatre in London embassy if necessary, says foreign minister
Ecuador is prepared to set up an operating theatre in its London embassy if Julian Assange needs urgent medical attention and the UK is not prepared to guarantee his safe passage to a hospital and back, according to the Ecuadorean foreign minister.
As the WikiLeaks founder spent his 100th day in the Ecuadorean embassy, where he has sought refuge from extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual crimes, the country’s foreign minister met his British counterpart, William Hague, to ask about contingency plans should Assange fall ill.
Hague told Ricardo Patino that he would consult officials and lawyers and respond within a few days, but a British official commented: “Maybe the Ecuadoreans should have thought of that before they granted him asylum.” The official added that British police were under obligation to arrest Assange as soon as he stepped out of the embassy.
“One thing we have proposed is to have an ambulance parked outside,” Patino told the Guardian in an interview in New York. “What we have said, if such a case should happen, we should be ready to install an operating theatre inside the premises, unless Mr Hague responds, as he promised in the next few days, that he [Assange] would be able to go to a hospital.”
The Ecuadorean foreign minister said that the Australian government had offered to help organise Assange’s healthcare during an indefinite stay in an embassy apartment, given the diplomatic impasse over his fate. Ecuador offered him asylum last month, saying he faced political persecution in the US, but the UK insists it has a legal duty to arrest him and extradite him to Sweden to face questioning. Australian officials have not confirmed Patino’s claim that Canberra had offered medical help.
When Assange addressed diplomats at the UN general assembly this week, via a satellite link from the London embassy, he appeared pale, with dark rings under his eyes. His voice was hoarse and his sniffed frequently.
Patino said he was not aware of any immediate health concerns for Assange but added: “We know that anyone who lives in these conditions of confinement may easily suffer from health issues, not only physical but also psychological. Imagine you have to stay in a room for three months. Imagine if you are going to be five years in this confinement.”
In November 2010, a Swedish court ordered Assange be detained for questioning after allegations by two women that what had started as consensual sex had turned non-consensual.
This week, Amnesty International called on Sweden to provide a guarantee that if Assange travelled there to answer questions over the sex-crime allegations, he would not be sent on to the US for charges connected to WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of US diplomatic and military cables.
A spokeswoman for the Swedish foreign ministry said the country’s legislation did not allow any judicial decision like extradition to be predetermined. The UK, which would also have to permit an extradition to the US, has given the same response but Hague stressed to Patino at their New York meeting that the European Convention on Human Rights sets strict limits on such extraditions, forbidding them, for example, if the charges in question carry the death penalty.
“The foreign secretary described the extensive human-rights safeguards in UK extradition law. He requested the government of Ecuador to study these provisions closely in considering the way ahead,” a foreign office spokesman said.
Officials said that the treatment of the alleged source of the WikiLeaks US cables, Bradley Manning – an American soldier whose lawyers say was subject to brutal and humiliating treatment and who has so far spent more than two years in jail without trial – would be taken into account if and when any future extradition decision was made.
However, Patino said that it was too late for such assurances, since Ecuador’s decision to offer asylum was irrevocable.
“When we hadn’t yet granted asylum, we could talk about guarantees,” the foreign minister said. “Now that we have granted asylum we are under the obligation not to surrender Mr Assange.”
Decision comes after she criticised MP George Galloway over comments about rape allegations against Julian Assange
Salma Yaqoob has quit as leader of the Respect party following what she said had been an extremely difficult few weeks and a breakdown in “relations of trust and collaborative working”.
Three weeks ago, Yaqoob, a former Birmingham city councillor, criticised Respect’s sole MP, George Galloway, for his suggestion that the rape allegations against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange amounted to little more than “really bad manners” and “bad sexual etiquette”.
In a statement posted on Respect’s website on Tuesday, Yaqoob said: “It is with deep regret that I have decided to resign from Respect. The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for everyone in the party. I feel necessary relations of trust and collaborative working have unfortunately broken down. I have no wish to prolong those difficulties, and indeed hope that they may now be drawn to a close.”
The loss of Yaqoob, a passionate advocate for the leftwing anti-war party, will be regarded as a major blow to Respect, but it does not come as a surprise.
In a posting on her own website last month, Yaqoob emphatically distanced herself from Galloway, the MP for Bradford West, who had claimed that even if the complaints against Assange by two women in Sweden were “100% true”, they still could not be considered rape. Assange denies the allegations. At the time, Yaqoob described Galloway’s comments as “deeply disappointing and wrong” and said the “political issues” surrounding Assange’s case should not be used to lessen the gravity of the accusations against him.
In her statement on Tuesday night, she added: “I remain committed to the principles and values that led me to help found Respect. The policies we have fought for need to be voiced as loud as ever in opposition to a political establishment that remains out of touch with working people.”
“I would like to thank everyone in the party for their support over the years; I wish everyone the very best for the future and in those common struggles for peace, justice and equality that I am sure we will all continue to be involved in.”
Chris Chilvers, the party’s national secretary, said: “While we are obviously very sorry that Salma has decided to leave Respect, we would like to thank her for the great contribution she has made to Respect over the last decade. We look forward to working with Salma in the future in pursuit of our shared values and objectives.”
Yaqoob was elected as a Birmingham city councillor in 2006, having won 49% of the vote in an inner-city council ward, and has remained as Respect’s best known figure after Galloway.
A qualified psychotherapist, she took her first steps into politics in the aftermath of 9/11 and and has described herself as being part of the labour movement, with political values based on social justice and opposition to war.
Foreign secretary meets Ecuadorean vice-president in attempt to find diplomatic solution to case of WikiLeaks founder
William Hague, the foreign secretary, has held talks with Ecuador’s vice-president Lenin Moreno as the deadlock over the status of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continued. Ecuador has granted political asylum to Assange, who is staying at the London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual offence allegations.
The Australian activist will be arrested and extradited if he steps outside the building after jumping bail. A Foreign Office spokesman said the UK and Ecuador would continue attempts to find a “diplomatic solution” to the stand-off.
Ecuador claims that Britain has threatened to enter the embassy and detain 41-year-old Assange in a move that would violate diplomatic conventions. Britain has warned that it can legally enter the embassy and arrest Assange under the 1987 Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act, but Hague has said there is no intention to “storm” the building.
Hague met Moreno in the Foreign Office as the vice-president visited the UK for the Paralympics and the pair talked about the Games and the rights of those with disabilities. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “They also discussed the situation regarding Mr Julian Assange’s presence in the embassy of Ecuador in London. They confirmed the UK and Ecuador’s commitment to dialogue to find a diplomatic solution to the matter.”
From talk of storming the Ecuadorian embassy to keeping Chinese tourists at bay, this is a comical administration
?If you get your eye in, this is rather a comical administration. They do for the government what that amateur art restorer in Spain did for the Ecce Homo. Or J. Cheever Loophole for the practice of law.
Just at the time we need to be delicate with Latin America, they talk openly about storming the Ecuadorean embassy. (Shouldn’t we just ignore Assange? It’s the single thing he couldn’t bear.) In the afterglow of the Olympics they reveal they’ve been misleading us about the sale of school playing fields.
Theresa May won’t make it easier for Chinese people to come here “for security reasons” – no doubt terrified by the hundreds of Chinese jihadists now storming round Europe – so they spend their millions in France and Germany instead.
And George Osborne produces a new British miracle: austerity combined with massive increases in public borrowing.
I was reminded of the Keystone Cops, rushing hither and thither to no apparent purpose, creating mayhem wherever they went. But at least they gave the impression that someone, somewhere was actually directing.
?Phyllis Diller, who died this week, always made me laugh, though she harks back to an earlier age in comedy when the only women who got work were those who were prepared to mock themselves and women generally.
You rarely get that now. I never saw her live, but in the course of research into America’s tackiest tourist attractions, I once visited Frederick’s of Hollywood bra museum. Along with bras from Madonna and the Supremes, there was one owned by Phyllis Diller, marked “this side up”.
?”Sir” Richard Branson may be the Julian Assange of British business, in that both believe the world revolves around them. Hence Branson’s decision to set up an air service between Manchester and London, above the route of the train line that’s been taken from him. (To be fair to Branson, his Pendolinos do the journey, city centre to city centre, in just over two hours – much quicker than the plane, unless you are transferring at Heathrow.)
But my new hate-line is the recently nationalised east coast. Going to Edinburgh the other day our loco broke down, and we limped into Grantham where the management in effect hijacked a Leeds train and made it go to Edinburgh, thus making everyone on a hideously crowded train very late. Coming back they had cancelled the train before ours which, consequently, was jammed with people standing. They wouldn’t even bring the trolley down, “for safety reasons”. They apologised endlessly, but nobody offered a reason for the chaos. And have you noticed the creeping growth of railway talk? It’s no longer a train, with engine and carriages, but a “set”. Trains are at a “stand” rather than a stop. We “arrive into Darlington” instead of “at Darlington”. I don’t blame them though for the unstoppable “train station”, an American phrase that distinguishes it from the more common bus station. The British term, when needed, is “railway station”, but we lost that years ago.
?I mentioned last week that we had been to see Tristan und Isolde sung at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. What I didn’t mention was that Isolde was sung by Jennifer Wilson, the magnificent diva who comes from suburban Washington DC. She is a big woman, over 6ft tall and broad to match. Her bosom was simply majestic. All she lacked was a horned helmet.
The Americans have a popular if slightly puzzling phrase, usually applied to sports, “the opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings”. When the Baltimore Orioles lost something like their first 20 baseball games one year, they put posters round the city showing a vast soprano in a helmet, with the legend, “She ain’t sung yet!” They went on to have a much better season.
Tristan was played by the Canadian Ben Heppner, and he has a belly quite as superb as the diva’s own embonpoint. Luckily they weren’t staging it because at the point where the opera is over, the directions say, “she throws herself on Tristan’s dead body”. It would have been like a bouncy castle for several minutes.
Her Liebestod was out-of-this-world electric, thrilling, and when she walked – no, sailed – into the hotel lounge where we were all having a restorative drink, everyone stood up and applauded. She was extremely gracious.
?To lunch at The Oldie magazine, another celebration of its 20th birthday and to mark 75 glorious years of its editor, Richard Ingrams. There is a panache and self-confidence about these occasions which I like.
Edward Enfield said he had been invited to a party at Hatchard’s book shop, and had consulted his son Harry about what he should say when he met all these famous writers.
“Just keep saying ‘marvellous!’” Harry advised. One of those he encountered was Laurie Lee, by then more or less blind and deaf.
“Your book is marvellous, marvellous!” he said. Lee peered at him. “Is this praise?” he asked. “In that case I’ll turn my hearing aid up.”
Maureen Lipman recalled how her late husband Jack Rosenthal had been working on a play in Los Angeles where he was accompanied by a young female researcher. “Crossing the hotel lobby he saw an old, saggy man with a gorgeous girl one-third his age. He thought, ‘do you have any idea how ridiculous you look?’ then realised he was walking towards a mirror.”
And Barry Cryer, one of the magazine’s best-loved favourites, said: “we’ve got to the age when the candles cost more than the cake … I can remember when Tony Blair was white. Now he’s the only person I know who’s a Roman Catholic and an Orange man at the same time.”
?More pointless labels: Nick Fisher was delighted to learn that his bag of Sainsbury’s ice cubes were “freezer-safe”. Iain Kelman was equally pleased to be told that his bottle of Asda own-brand water was “good for hydration” (“as opposed to washing the car?” he asks.) And driving from Northern Ireland – where they drive on the left – into the Republic, John Cartledge saw a helpful sign telling him to drive on the left.
Picture shows officer holding document with instructions to arrest WikiLeaks founder whether he leaves in diplomatic car or bag
Plans to seize Julian Assange “under all circumstances” the moment he leaves the Ecuadorean embassy in London have accidentally been revealed by a police officer displaying restricted documents outside the embassy.
The document, pictured under the officer’s arm by a Press Association photographer, appears to advocate arresting the WikiLeaks founder whether he leaves the building in a diplomatic bag or in a diplomatic car.
The handwritten plan was recorded at a police briefing and only partially covered by the officer’s arm as he arrived at the embassy in Knightsbridge on Friday.
The brief begins: “BRIEF – EQ. Embassy brief – Summary of current position Re Assange. Action required – Assange to be arrested under all circumstances.” It then makes reference to a “dip bag” and a “dip vehicle”.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “The document is one officer’s notes from a briefing. Our objective is to arrest Julian Assange for breach of bail. Under no circumstances would any arrest be made which was in breach of diplomatic immunity.”
Assange, who has been in the building for two months, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over claims of sexual assault.
He is refusing to travel to Scandinavia amid fears he will be extradited to the United States over his controversial website. Ecuador granted the Australian political asylum last week.
The UK government has made it clear Assange, who denies the allegations, will be arrested if he steps outside the embassy after jumping bail.
Speculation has been rife about possible escape routes, and Assange’s legal team and the Ecuadorean government have talked about the possibility of safe passage to Ecuador.
Ambassadors from several South American countries went to the embassy on Friday to show their solidarity with Ecuador.
The British government has threatened, under a 1987 Act, to enter the embassy and arrest the 41-year-old, but foreign secretary William Hague has said there is no intention to “storm” the building.
Ecuador’s president has said the diplomatic row “could be ended tomorrow” if Britain gave the activist safe passage to South America.
Rafael Correa says allegations should still be investigated but Ecuador will stand firm on asylum for WikiLeaks founder
Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, has said Julian Assange should respond to the sexual assault allegations made against him by two Swedish women, even though the case would not in his view constitute criminal behaviour in Latin America.
His remarks are likely to add to the controversy surrounding the WikiLeaks founder but they also hint at a possible avenue for a compromise in the diplomatic row caused by Ecuador’s recent decision to grant asylum to Assange at its London embassy.
In the latest in a series of strident comments, Correa accused the British government of hypocrisy and said he was prepared for the stand-off to last indefinitely even if it risked a loss of UK business and public support. “If the UK distances itself from Ecuador as a result of this decision to grant asylum that would make us very sorry because we appreciate the United Kingdom – especially its people – but that will not make us go back on our position.
“Despite the attitude of the United Kingdom, we as a country are obliged to act responsibly,” he told a gathering of international press in Guiyaquil. “As we have previously said, now that he has asylum, Mr Assange is entitled to remain in the embassy for as long as he wants.”
He spelled out three possibilities for the stand-off to be broken: for the UK to promise safe conduct to the airport without the threat of arrest; for Assange to leave asylum of his own accord; or for the government in Ecuador to change its mind, which he said would not happen.
The British government has insisted on an investigation into the rape and sexual assault accusations. It wants to comply with a court request that Assange should be sent to Sweden for questioning. Assange’s supporters have tried to discredit the allegations, saying they are part of a plot to extradite him to the US.
Senior politicians in Ecuador have implied much the same. Correas added his voice but said the case needed to be answered. “I don’t want to judge allegations that have not been proven and would not, in any case, be considered a felony in Latin American too,” he said. ”It has never been the intention of the Ecuadorean government or Julian Assange not to respond to those allegations.”
Ecuador has proposed interrogations by Swedish investigators on embassy property and has said it would support Assange going to Sweden if it could get reassurances from the UK government that he would not then be extradited to the US.
Critics say this is grandstanding for domestic political reasons. Correa – already Ecuador’s longest serving president for a century – will contest an election early next year. Although his support rates are high, one of his least popular moves has been to assert greater control over the media through lawsuits, referenda and closures of radio stations. Providing a haven for Assage – a champion of whistleblowers – may be designed to offset these negative perceptions.
During the Q&A on Tuesday Correa spent a chunk of the time addressing this issue and defending an offensive against TV, radio and print. “Don’t let yourself be fooled by what’s going. There is this image of the media as being about Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate and the struggle for freedom of expression. But that isn’t the case here.”
The reality, he said, was more like the the novel Pantaleón y las Visitadora by Mario Vargas Llosa. “Instead of grabbing the news they are blackmailing people. The press in Latin America is totally corrupt.”
Speech from balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy calls on Barack Obama to abandon ‘witch-hunt’ against WikiLeaks
The diplomatic standoff between Britain and Ecuador deepened on Sunday after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange used an extraordinary appearance on the first-floor balcony of Ecuador’s London embassy to berate the United States.
With Metropolitan police officers watching from metres away, Assange called on President Obama to abandon what he called a “witch-hunt” against WikiLeaks. He said an alleged “FBI investigation” against his whistleblowing website should be “dissolved” and that the US should go back to its original “revolutionary” values.
“As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies,” Assange said, standing on a white balcony just above the pavement, and flanked by Ecuador’s yellow, blue and red flag. He added: “I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks.”
Assange also thanked Ecuador’s social democrat president, Rafael Correa, for granting him political asylum. Correa’s decision, announced last Thursday, has set off a growing international row. Assange also thanked several other Latin American countries for their support – implicitly warning Britain that any dispute with Ecuador could rapidly snowball into a conflict with the entire region.
More than 50 police officers surrounded the embassy in Knightsbridge, south-west London, on Sunday, with a police helicopter in the skies above, but they were clearly under orders not to try to arrest the WikiLeaks founder. Assange addressed around 100 well-wishers, with supporters including Tariq Ali and former British ambassador Craig Murray making speeches from the street.
Assange spoke for 10 minutes. He appeared cheerful, if unsurprisingly pale. This was his first public appearance since he slipped into the embassy two months ago and the latest surreal episode in a soap opera that has seen him go from the High Court to house arrest in Norfolk and now to an embassy camp-bed in genteel Kensington and Chelsea, less than 50m from Harrods.
The 41-year-old Australian took refuge in the embassy after the supreme court ordered his extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of serious sexual misconduct. Assange pointedly did not mention those allegations on Sunday, instead casting his predicament as a universal one of free speech struggling to survive in a “dangerous and oppressive world”. Britain says it is obliged to implement EU extradition law and will arrest Assange the second he leaves the building.
Speaking from the balcony in SW1, Assange claimed that the Met had come close to storming the embassy late last Wednesday. Britain sent a letter to Ecuador last week stating that it believes it is entitled to arrest Assange inside the building under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987. The claim has enraged the government in Quito, which says the 1961 Vienna convention protects its – and others’ – diplomatic territory.
Assange said: “Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape.” He said the only reason the UK “did not throw away the Vienna convention the other night” was because “the world is watching”. He also thanked embassy staff, “who have shown me hospitality and kindness, despite the threats we all received”.
Despite the heavy police presence on Sunday, the Foreign Office is clearly trying to find a diplomatic solution to the row with Ecuador. Foreign secretary William Hague has made it clear there is no suggestion that police would “storm” the embassy.
But Assange’s provocative balcony appearance, in which he praised “courageous Ecuador” while disparaging Britain, his long-suffering host country, will have won him few new friends in Downing Street. Assange’s supporters claim that if he is sent to Sweden he is in danger of being extradited to the US to be charged with espionage. Sweden has vehemently denied this.
On Sunday Assange said: “Will it [the US] return to and reaffirm the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world?”
He said there should be no “foolish talk” about prosecuting media organisations, mentioning not only WikiLeaks but also the New York Times, a paper Assange has previously bitterly criticised.
He also called on the US to end its “war on whistleblowers”, and demanded that Bradley Manning, the US army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking information, be released.
Manning has been charged with transferring classified data and delivering national defence information to an unauthorised source. He faces up to 52 years in jail.
Assange called him a hero and “an example to all of us” – drawing cheers from WikiLeaks fans packing the Knightsbridge pavement. “On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial,” Assange said. “The legal maximum is 120 days.”
Assange also made a rare mention of his children, “who have been denied their father”. He said he hoped soon to be back with them and the rest of his family, adding: “Forgive me, we will be reunited soon.”