Ecuador mulling whether or not to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

15 Aug 2012

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Ecuador’s president and foreign minister are meeting today to discuss whether or not to grant asylum to the founder of whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden for questioning on alleged sex crimes.

Assange has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for the past eight weeks to avoid extradition to Sweden, Reuters reported.

Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino said only he and President Rafael Correa could decide whether or not to grant Assange amnesty and that a decision on his application is likely before the end of this week, Reuters said.

Assange has been adamant in his belief that extradition to Sweden will only result in him being handed over to US authorities keen to strike back over the Afghanistan military and diplomatic cables that were leaked online in 2010.

Assange has diplomatic immunity while in the Ecuadorian embassy. He retreated there after he lost an appeal to stop his extradition to Sweden.

However, even if Assange is granted asylum, he may still be arrested. Authorities have said that by not returning home Assange has broken the terms of his bail, and London police have said they plan to arrest him even if he is granted asylum.

“It’s not only about whether to grant the asylum, because for Mr Assange to leave England he should have a safe pass from the British (government). Will that be possible? That’s an issue we have to take into account,” Reuters reported Patino as having said.

It’s doubtful the British government would grant Assange safe passage to an airport, as that would mean going against the Swedish arrest warrant and a ruling by Britain’s own Supreme Court that the warrant was valid, according to Reuters.