MONTEVIDEO – The situation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent the last five years holed up at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, represents a historic injustice, Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa told EFE on Friday.
“It’s one of the great disgraces, injustices, and abuses in recent history,” Correa, who left office last month after 10 years in power, said in an interview in Montevideo.
“If we had done a tenth of what Sweden did, or what Great Britain is doing, we would already be in front of the (International) Criminal Court in The Hague and be denounced on all sides. But as it’s them, nothing happens at all,” the Ecuadorian said.
The Australian citizen sought refuge at the Ecuadorian mission in June 2012 after losing a battle in the British courts to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors had been seeking to question him about rape allegations dating back to 2010.
Assange, who denies all the accusations, said that once he was in Swedish custody the United States would pressure Stockholm into handing him over for prosecution based on WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents.
Ecuador granted Assange’s application for political asylum, but the UK government continues to deny him safe passage to the government, even after Swedish prosecutors’ announcement last month that they were closing the investigation.
Correa told EFE that his administration “never wanted” to obstruct the Swedish investigation, but only to “guarantee due process” for Assange, who “was threatened even with death by certain groups in the United States, where they had a law that included the death penalty if he was deported to that country.”
Ecuador does not seek “to justify what (Assange) has done,” Correa said.
Following Sweden’s decision to end the probe, British police said that they would arrest Assange if he left the embassy, as he still faces charges of failing to surrender to the court that was hearing the extradition case.
“Now it turns out that for a minor offense that he violated his bail terms, Great Britain says that if he leaves the embassy they’ll arrest him. This is truly an attack on human rights,” Correa said.
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa has said that her government has had diplomat contacts with the UK, including a meeting with the British ambassador in Quito, in pursuit of a solution to the issue.