On Thursday, the chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was provided with political asylum in Ecuador. This will undoubtedly create a problem with the government of Great Britain, which will not extradite Assange from the country. Ricardo Patiño, the foreign minister of Ecuador, said that the country had granted Assange political asylum because the country feels that Assange was being persecuted for his position as the head of the website.
“The Ecuador government, loyal to its tradition to protect those who seek refuge with us at our diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Mr. Assange,” Patiño said.
Assange is still in the Ecuador embassy in London, which is where he went in order to stay away from being extradited to Sweden. Assange faces rape allegations there but is fearful that he will be sent to the United States. He worries that he will be prosecuted in the United States for leaking classified info using WikiLeaks. The government of Sweden has said that it would not extradite Assange to the United States.
Michael Ratner, a lawyer for Assange, said, “If Julian Assange were to go to Sweden, he would be put in jail immediately. He is not allowed to get bail in Sweden. At that point, the U.S. files its extradition request.”
Patiño said that Ecuador would extradite Assange to Sweden if the country could guarantee that he would not be sent to the United States. He then went on to say that Sweden could not agree to those terms. “It is not impossible that he would be treated in a cruel manner, condemned to life in prison, or even the death penalty,” Patiño said.
The foreign office for Great Britain issued a statement on Twitter that said it was disappointed in the decision by Ecuador and promised to extradite Assange to Sweden. “Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal UK authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government’s decision this afternoon does not change that. We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act.”
Foreign Secretary William Hague also confirmed that the country will not permit safe passage from the country for Assange. “We will not allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the UK, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so. The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum … Moreover, it is well established that, even for those countries which do recognise diplomatic asylum, it should not be used for the purposes of escaping the regular processes of the courts. And in this case that is clearly what is happening.”