Julian Assange Seeks Political Asylum In Ecuador
The founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, on Wednesday demanded political asylum at the embassy of Ecuador in London, days after the UK Supreme Court dismissed his appeal to reopen the case and avert extradition to Sweden.
Assange fears that an extradition to Sweden, which is requested by Swedish authorities on the grounds of two sexual assault charges and was already cleared by the British Supreme Court, could be a phase and that he could end up in a trial in the United States, in the case of the diplomatic cable leak scandal, which embarrassed America in 2010.
The Australian-born editor believes that such a trial could end in a death sentence or in an incarceration at Guantanamo Bay. The Swedish authorities argue that the European Court for Human Rights will make sure that Assange does not get submitted to any “human degrading” treatment or an unfair trial in the United States.
The British Foreign Office said that Assange was out of police reach, being in the Ecuadorian embassy and enjoying the presence on diplomatic territory, but that it was cooperating with the Ecuadorian authorities to see what can be done to solve the situation. Ecuador announced that it was studying and analyzing the case.
In 2010, Assange was offered Ecuadorian residency for a short period of time by the deputy foreign minister, who argued that the reason for his offer was to allow Assange to continue his work freely. The president of the republic, Rafael Correa, dismissed the offer by saying he had not approved it.
The Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom on Tuesday issued a statement in which it said that that afternoon Julian Assange had requested political asylum, and that he was at the embassy.
As a signatory of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Ecuador was compelled to pass the request on to the competent department in Quito, and that for the time being the editor would remain in the embassy under the Ecuadorian protection.
The Ecuadorian authorities made it clear that their considering the request should not be considered as interference in the judicial business of the United Kingdom or Sweden. Quito will ask the opinion of the UK, US and Swedish authorities before they make a decision about the political asylum.
Assange has until June 28 to file an appeal by the European Court for Human Rights to appeal the decision of the supreme court in Britain. Should he fail to do so, the extradition takes effect immediately after that date and he will be taken to Sweden, where he is expected to answer to claims made by two women who had volunteered for WikiLeaks activity. They say he had sexually assaulted them, Assange denies any wrongdoing, claiming that the sex was consensual.
Associated Press says that the Foreign Minister of Ecuador had told the press that Assange wrote a letter to the Ecuadorian president Correa, in which he informed him that he was being persecuted and that he sought his country’s protection against persecution.
BBC quotes Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, a human rights activist, to say that she understood from the Swedish lawyers that Assange would be handed over to the U.S. judicial system as soon as the investigation on the sex assault claim was over.
She told British press that according to international law, a country which receives an extradited person should hold them accountable for the charge that stood as ground for extradition and that as soon as they have dealt with him over that charge the person should be set free to leave the country at their pleasure.
Kennedy said that Ecuador would gladly let Assange go to Sweden, if the Scandinavian nation could provide any assurances that the editor will be treated according to the provision of the international law.
Julian Assange is under a bail of 200,000 pounds made by some of his supporters, who expressed their surprise at the announcement that Assange was seeking political asylum. The bail was made to prevent flight or to make sure that he gets to court.
WikiLeaks also posted an alert on Twitter, saying that Julian Assange was under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.11