BRUSSELS – Rafael Correa said on Saturday that he believes Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States, where he is accused of 18 charges and could be sentenced to 175 years of prison, the former Ecuadorian president told EFE in an interview.
Assange (47) is currently in custody in the United Kingdom where he was jailed for 50 weeks for breaching his bail after spending seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over a rape allegation.
He is also wanted in the US for a number of charges, including espionage and computer hacking.
“I hope I am wrong but it was something that was already established, it is a negotiation between the Ecuadorian Government and the United States,” Correa said.
According to the Ecuadorian government, the United Kingdom has said that Assange would not be sent to a country where he may suffer torture or be condemned to death, but Correa was doubtful about this and branded UK lawmakers as “liars.”
“In any case, what greater torture exits than 175 years in prison, 18 charges, a totally disproportionate sentence?” he pondered.
According to Correa, “international double standards” force countries to act according to their “interests” which explains the fact that there is no mobilization in support of Assange, whom he says he does not know and has never met “in person” although, he adds he was once interviewed by him on Skype.
“Imagine if I had been an American journalist who had revealed Russian or Chinese secrets and sought refuge in the British Embassy in Quito and that I was the president and hadn’t let him out in seven years, I would have been bombed, invaded even,” Correa continued.
“However, in this case, the removal of an asylum seeker from the embassy, allowing British police to storm in, violating the Vienna Convention and breaking the Ecuadorian Constitution, has been applauded” the former president decried.
Assange’s refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London came to an end on April 11 when Quito terminated the asylum that he had been granted seven years ago.
In the last year, the activist has sued Ecuador for alleged violation of his rights.
On Thursday, the British Interior Minister, Sajid Javid, signed an extradition request from the United States.
On Friday, a preliminary hearing was held and the court ruled that a full extradition hearing for the Wikileaks founder would begin on Feb. 25, 2020.
On the day Assange’s asylum was revoked, Correa’s Facebook account, which had over 1 million followers, was blocked for disclosing information relating to the so-called “INA Papers” case linking current president Lenin Moreno to corruption cases and accusing him of allegedly having accounts in tax havens.
“Without prior notice, without explanations,” Correa told EFE of the sudden shutdown.
The former president later reopened another account, that “in less than 24 hours he had 40,000 followers” and that was also “blocked” on the same day.
According to Correa, the director of Facebook for Latin America, Diego Bassante, an Ecuadorian diplomat, was behind the decision to close his social media accounts.
Correa has described the move as “censorship and persecution” adding that he now has an account on the “VK” Russian social media service.
Correa, who was president of Ecuador between 2007 and 2017, resides in Belgium – where his wife is from – and says he misses the food of his country, his mother, the people, as well as the Ecuadorian landscapes, but that he can only return when the arrest warrant against him is lifted.