Ecuadorean officials have reiterated that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can remain inside the country’s London embassy for however long it takes – “eight years [or] two centuries” if necessary.
The latest comments echo earlier statements by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, who told reporters this week that the decision to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum will not be rescinded.
“Despite the attitude of the United Kingdom, we as a country are obliged to act responsibly,” said Correa. “As we have previously said, now that he has asylum, Mr Assange is entitled to remain in the embassy for as long as he wants.”
Ecuadorean diplomats also denied that it had provoked the UK by allowing Assange to use embassy property to criticize Washington and London.
“It was the balcony or a window,” one official told the UK-based Guardian. “He had to deliver a message. A lot of people were wanting to know what he looked like. They wanted an image. It had political value.”
Julian Assange was granted asylum by the Ecuadorian government on August 16. The WikiLeaks founder first entered the embassy on June 19 after all attempts to fight extradition to Sweden – where he 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.
Indeed, Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino went on record as stating that his country believes Assange faces a genuine threat of political persecution and possible extradition to the United States where the WikiLeaks founder would be denied a fair trial.
“It is not impossible that he would be treated in a cruel manner, condemned to life in prison, or even the death penalty,” Patino told journalists in Quito earlier this month. “Ecuador is convinced that his procedural rights have been violated.”
The foreign minister also said he hoped Britain would allow Assange to leave the embassy in London for Ecuador, a request the UK continues to rebuff. As such, Assange will likely remain in the Ecuadorian embassy for the foreseeable future.