August 30, 2012

Ecuador's President demands Sweden and Britain guarantee not to extradite Julian Assange

Charles Miranda in London
AFP, News Limited Network
August 30, 2012 5:34PM

ECUADOR'S President Rafael Correa fears Julian Assange would not get a fair trial in the US and has insisted that Britain and Sweden guarantee they will not extradite the WikiLeaks founder.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media and his supporters from
the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 19, 2012. Picture: AFP
Source: AFP

Assange took shelter in Ecuador's London embassy on June 19 after exhausting all appeals against his extradition to Sweden for questioning on sex crime allegations. Quito later granted him asylum, sparking a diplomatic row. Assange has said he fears Sweden intends to hand him over to the US, where he could face prosecution over his part in the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret battlefield reports and embassy cables.

Correa said in an interview with state-run television that if Assange were to be extradited to the US, "there would be no guarantee of due process.'' "What we want is to insure a fair trial and the right to life for Mr Assange, but there are clear and serious indications of political persecution,'' he said today. The 41-year-old Australian has denied the sex crime allegations and accused Washington of carrying out a "witch hunt'' aimed at silencing critics of its policies.

The US called WikiLeaks a national security threat following its release of thousands of war reports from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as a trove of often-embarrassing classified State Department cables.

Correa said there were three ways to resolve the diplomatic impasse with London: either Britain and Sweden could guarantee that Assange won't be sent to a third country, Swedish prosecutors could question him in the Ecuadoran embassy, or British authorities could allow him to leave without arresting him.

Earlier, British Foreign Secretary William Hague met today with Ecuador’s vice president Lenin Moreno in the first clear sign the two nations are looking at resolving the Julian Assange impasse.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office confirmed the plight of the Australian Wikileaks founder was on the discussion agenda and the men specifically talked about a “diplomatic solution”.

It is understood Ecuador spoke about why it had granted political asylum and the assurances they needed from both Britain and Sweden that the 41-year-old would not be extradited to the US where he faces likely prosecution over the Wikileak revelations.

Assange was granted asylum after on June 19 he jumped bail, fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London and asked for political asylum. The move came after a British court ordered he be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault. Vice President Moreno is currently in London for the Paralympics and a short statement from the Foreign Office said the pair also discussed the Games.

“They discussed the situation regarding Mr Julian Assange's presence in the embassy of Ecuador in London,” the statement said.

“They confirmed the UK and Ecuador’s commitment to dialogue to find a diplomatic solution to the matter.”

Mr Hague reaffirmed British authorities had no intention to "storm" the building to retrieve the activist.

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