On the news today, it was said that Julian Assange had been in the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking asylum for 12 months now.
Julian Assange: Ecuador will continue to grant asylum
Ricardo Patino speaks after talks with his UK counterpart, William Hague
Ecuador’s foreign minister has said its embassy in London will continue to provide political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Ricardo Patino was speaking after talks with his UK counterpart, William Hague.
Mr Assange has been staying inside the embassy for the past year to avoid extradition to Sweden.
The Australian anti-secrecy campaigner is wanted there for questioning over allegations by two women of sexual offences – which he denies.
Mr Assange, who arrived at the Ecuadorean embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London a year ago on 19 June, will be arrested if he leaves the building.
Mr Patino said Mr Assange was prepared to stay inside the embassy for five years.
The Foreign Office said the two ministers talked for 45 minutes and while there had been no breakthrough, they had “agreed to keep channels of communication open”.
“Ministers agreed that officials should establish a working group to find a diplomatic solution to the issue of Julian Assange, but no substantive progress was made,” it said.
“The foreign secretary was clear once again that any resolution would need to be within the laws of the United Kingdom.”
Speaking via a translator, Mr Patino said: “The Ecuadorean government will continue to ensure that he continues with the protection we have given him under asylum in our country, protecting his life, his personal integrity, and particularly his freedom of expression.
“The Ecuadorean government maintains that the reasons for which Ecuador granted asylum are still relevant, and therefore there is going to be no change in his circumstances.”
The UK government has previously said that it has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.
Mr Patino said Britain and Ecuador were using different legal justifications to support their positions.
He said he had given a document to the British government setting out the basis on which Mr Assange should be allowed safe conduct to Ecuador.
Mr Patino met Mr Assange on Sunday and said he was “in good spirits” despite the “limitations of his accommodations”.
The WikiLeaks founder sought asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy after the UK Supreme Court refused to reopen his appeal against extradition.
He fears that if he is sent to Sweden, he may be extradited to the US, where he could face the death penalty for disclosing confidential government information.
The British government has spent about £3m on police officers to guard the embassy around the clock.
Julian Assange is the founder of wikileaks which published details of US government papers. This embarrassed the US government who were expected to seek his extradition from the UK. Whether the UK would extradite him was debatable given he could face the death penalty in the USA for his alleged crime. Also, there would be numerous arguments raised re human rights, freedom of speech etc. It would have been hard for the USA to get Assange extradited from the UK.
Conveniently, and perhaps co-incidentally, at this point there emerged 2 allegations of sexual offences against Assange in Sweden. The suspicion of Assange and many other observers is that if Assange is extradited to Sweden from the UK then Sweden will hand him over to the USA where he faces life imprisonment for the crimes alleged against him there – i.e. publishing the leaked papers.
I am not going to get into the ins and outs of the allegations in either Sweden or the USA. The facts will (or will not) be revealed at some time in the future.
What concerns me more is the £3 million that the Metropolitan Police have spent in the last year in guarding the Ecuadorian embassy. Why? Assange is hardly a dangerous violent criminal whom they need to keep cornered. He is unlikely to be able to leave the UK very easily if he did leave the embassy. The UK government have a ports alert system so if he had left the embassy, he would not be able to leave the UK via the usual ports. He would be able to leave the UK if he flew from a private airfield, without passing through immigration controls. However, where could he go? It is unlikely that he could go beyond Northern Europe on the sort of plane he could hire without alerting the UK authorities.
Also, I am quite sure that the Ecuadorian embassy area is covered by CCTV, so someone could easily monitor the exterior of the embassy and alert police patrols if Assange was seen to leave.
In any event, so what if he left the embassy. He appears not to pose any threat to people in the UK. He was on bail for many months before he went to the embassy, so presumably the authorities accepted he was not a danger to the public.
At the present time when we are all facing budgetary cuts, one must question whether the £3 million pounds it has cost to have police outside the embassy is a good use of public funds. This cost would fund numerous police officers to patrol your local estate. I would suggest that an increased police presence in your local borough would be far more effective in preventing/ detecting crime than standing outside the Ecuadorian embassy waiting to see if 1 non dangerous man leaves.