WikiLeaks founder facing extradition from UK
Friday, 17 August 2012 - 1:37 PM SL Time
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson yesterday warned Britain against any attempt to enter Ecuador s London embassy and arrest his colleague Julian Assange, who has been granted asylum.
I am delighted that Ecuador has decided to offer asylum to Julian Assange and did not bow to the intimidation and bullying by the UK, Hrafnsson told AFP in a telephone interview from Iceland.
Hopefully, we will see the decision resolved in a civilised manner, he added.
I hope that the UK authorities are sensible enough not to enter the embassy without permission, which would risk upsetting diplomatic relations all over the world.
Ecuador s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced at a press conference yesterday that his government had decided to grant asylum to Assange, who has been holed up at the embassy since June 19.
Britain has said the granting of asylum does not change its obligation to extradite Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing website, to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.
Hrafnsson said he had not yet spoken to Assange, but planned to call him soon.
Considering the situation he s been holding
up well,` he said. `Julian is used to living in difficult circumstances. And he has had access to a computer in the embassy, so he has been able to carry on working.`
Meanwhile, Sweden said yesterday it rejected Ecuador`s claim that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder wanted by Stockholm, would not have a fair trial as a reason for granting him political asylum.
`Our firm legal and constitutional system guarantees the rights of each and everyone. We firmly reject any accusations to the contrary,` Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on his Twitter account.
Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London on June 19 after a British court ruled he could be extradited to Sweden for for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said at a news conference in Quito yesterday his government reached its decision after London, Stockholm and Washington refused to guarantee that Assange would not be sent on to the United States where he
fears trial for the release of a trove of classified US documents by his whistleblowing website.
Patino said Assange`s imprisonment in Sweden `would open up a chain of events that would impede his avoiding extradition to a third country.` `As a result, Ecuador feels his arguments mean his fears are genuine, that he could be the victim of political persecution because of his decisive defense of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press,` he said.
`If he were extradited to the United States, Mr Assange would not receive a fair trial (and) could be judged by special tribunals or military courts,` Patina said.
`It is not implausible that he would be subjected to cruel and degrading treatment and be condemned to life in prison or capital punishment.`
Ecuador`s decision to grant political asylum to Assange does not change Britain`s `obligation` to extradite him to Sweden, the British Foreign Office said yesterday.
Commenting on the `disappointing` decision, a spokeswoman said: `Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden.
`We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian government`s decision this afternoon does not change that.` The spokeswoman added: `We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act.`
Meanwhile Press TV adds: `In an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on June 19 and applied for political asylum. He had embarked on a marathon round of court battles but finally exhausted all his options under British law in June when the Supreme Court rejected his appeal against extradition. The Ecuadorian official, who has knowledge of the discussions, said the embassy had discussed Assange`s asylum request.
He also stated that the British government `discouraged the idea` and the Swedish government was `not very collaborative.` The official added, `We see Assange`s request as a humanitarian issue. The contact between the Ecuadorian government and WikiLeaks goes back to May 2011, when we became the first country to see the leaked US Embassy cables completely declassified... It is clear that when Julian entered the embassy there was already some sort of deal. We see in his work a parallel with our struggle for national sovereignty and the democratization of international relations.`