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Ecuador considering possibility of granting Julian Assange asylum, president says

posted 21 Jun 2012, 03:20 by Mpelembe   [ updated 21 Jun 2012, 03:20 ]

President Rafael Correa says that Ecuador is examining the possibility of granting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asylum.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Wednesday (June 20) said during an interview with Venezuela's Telesur network that his administration is examining the possibility of granting asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
On Tuesday, WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London and asked for asylum in a last-ditch bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime accusations.

"We are analysing Julian Assange's asylum request in a very serious and responsible way. We can't give an official response until the analysis of his request is complete," Correa said.

The appeal for protection was the latest twist in Assange's 18-month fight against being sent to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers.

The situation threatens to inflame tensions between the government of Rafael Correa, Ecuador's leftist and ardently anti-Washington president, and U.S. authorities, who accuse Assange of damaging its foreign relations with his leaks.

It is also an embarrassment for Britain, whose foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed the 40-year-old Assange was beyond the reach of its police in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Correa said that his country has the same rights to grant asylum to those it deems worthy as does the United States or Great Britain.

"Well, if an asylum request affects the relationship with Great Britain, the relationship between the United States and Latin America should be very affected because all the corrupt Ecuadorians-- the bankers who bankrupted our country-- asked for asylum in the United States. Journalists who defame go to the United States to ask for asylum. I think it's established in international law and every country has a perfect right within its sovereignty to analyse the possibility of giving asylum to a world citizen who has asked for said asylum," he said.

"We'll take the time that is necessary because we're dealing with a very serious topic that we take on with absolute responsibility. However, in the meantime, Mr. Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and under the protection of the Ecuadorian state," Correa added.

The Andean nation in 2010 invited Assange to seek residency there but quickly backed away from the idea, accusing him of breaking U.S. laws.

Since his detention, Assange has mostly been living under strict bail conditions at the country mansion of a wealthy supporter in eastern England. His associates say that amounts to 540 days under house arrest without charge. Breach of bail conditions is potentially a criminal offence.

Britain's Supreme Court last week said Assange could be extradited to Sweden in about two weeks' time, rejecting his argument that a European arrest warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors for his extradition was invalid..

The only recourse left to him in the courts is an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Assange, who has not been charged with any offence in Sweden and denies any wrongdoing, has argued that the case is politically motivated because the release of documents on his website has angered the United States.

In 2010, WikiLeaks began releasing secret video footage and thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, many of them about Iraq and Afghanistan, in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.