The Ecuadorian government has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino first spoke about Assange’s fear of being extradited the U.S. because of his WikiLeaks publications.
He said Assange has been fighting for freedom of speech and freedom of press.
“We think that extradition of Assange is viable … outside of the EU, guaranteeing his safety,” he said (according to the RT translation).
Patino said that if Assange is extradited to the U.S., he would be tried by a military tribunal. He says that Assange must answer to allegations in Sweden but has not been afforded his full rights in the case.
“Asylum … is a human privilege that is fundamental… based on the foundation of human protection, and their should be no distinction… Asylum belongs to the set of rules that should be recognised at an international level and it overrides local regulations.”
Patino said that the rights for political asylum, citing several international pieces of legislation, override any other treaty that opposes them.
“Based on intangible rights and values, against unilateral attitudes by states, this should strengthen international politics.”
He said neither the UK nor Sweden showed a willingness to reach an agreement.
“Ecuador made it clear to Sweden that we wanted to have an interview with them and we didn’t want to interfere with whatever is happening there. Sweden didn’t accept our proposal. Ecuador requested some guarantees from Sweden that Assange would not be [sent] to the United States, and they denied.”
“We trust that the UK will offer the necessary guarantees so that both governments can act properly, respecting international rights and the rights of asylum. And we trust that the excellent relationship between the two countries will remain intact.”
Here is Sweden’s response:
Sweden’s Foreign Ministry says it is unacceptable that Ecuador is hindering Swedish legal process – spokesman
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 16, 2012
Before making his statement, the FM spoke about yesterday’s threat from the UK that authorities would storm the Ecuadorian embassy and arrest Assange.
The Ecuadorian government said it would consider such an action a “hostile and intolerable act.”
Former UK ambassador Craig Murray said that the decision to enter the Ecuadorian embassy would “be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961” and that “Not even the Chinese government tried to enter the US Embassy to arrest the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen.”
Nevertheless authorities say that if Assange steps out of the embassy, he will be arrested for breaking his bail.
Last night an Ecuadorian official said that the country is prepared to allow the WikiLeaks founder to remain in its London embassy indefinitely under a type of humanitarian protection.
The 40-year-old Australian arrived at the embassy on June 19 as he sought to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for preliminary questioning over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women.
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