A high-ranking Ecuadorian official has confirmed that his country intends to protect Julian Assange’s life and his right to freedom.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino made the above-mentioned statement to reporters after learning that Stockholm had declined an invitation to interview the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
As you may recall, Assange entered the embassy on June 19 after all attempts to fight extradition to Sweden – where the WikiLeaks founder faces charges of sexual assault – failed. Assange, who denies the accusations, is concerned that extradition to Sweden could ultimately lead to his eventual transfer and detention in the United States.
According to Patino, Sweden’s decision “makes the situation more complicated.”
“This makes it more difficult for us to make a decision that would mean that Mr. Assange would have to travel to Sweden. [Of course], this will be a factor to consider in the decision we have to make,” Patino explained.
“Had we had a positive answer from the Swedish government then we would be considering taking a different kind of decision… Even though there isn’t a trial, there aren’t judicial proceedings against him, Sweden wants to imprison him … That’s why we asked the Swedish government to question him where he’s now.”
Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyer Michael Ratner said that Julian “is right” to fear American prosecution.
“The US is on track to prosecute Assange for his work as a journalist. A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, [empowered] to investigate violations of the Espionage Act – a statute that by its very nature targets speech – has subpoenaed Twitter feeds regarding Assange and WikiLeaks,” Ratner wrote in an op-ed piece published by the UK-based Guardian.
“An FBI agent, testifying at whistleblower Bradley Manning’s trial, said that ‘founders, owners and managers’ of WikiLeaks are being investigated. And then there is Assange’s 42,135-page FBI file – a compilation of curious heft if the government is ‘not interested’ in investigating its subject.”
Ratner also noted that Assange was “rightly concerned” about how he would be treated if extradited to the US.
“One need only consider how the US treated Bradley Manning, the army private who allegedly leaked the cables to WikiLeaks to see why. Manning spent close to a year in pre-trial solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, and then eight months under conditions designed to pressure him into providing evidence to incriminate Assange.
“During this time, Manning was stripped of his clothing and made to stand nude for inspection. Thousands of people, including scores of legal scholars and the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, have condemned Manning’s treatment as inhumane, and state that it may constitute torture. There is no reason for Assange to expect he will be treated any better,” he added.