QUITO – Ecuador said it is open to dialogue with Britain if it first withdraws the “threat” of storming the Andean nation’s embassy in London to arrest the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, to whom Quito granted political asylum last week.
“We’ve been talking with them (Britain) for two months and the final answer was a threat. We hope that the threat will be removed and, very willingly, we’re going to talk with them. We have no problem, this is what we wanted from the first, but with a threat hanging over one, one cannot talk,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said.
Quito is not “negotiating” with Britain, but rather Ecuador is making its decisions in a “sovereign” manner, Patiño said.
“We were talking to see if it was possible to obtain a declaration of guarantees for the life of Mr. Assange, that they would not extradite him to a third country,” Patiño said in a press conference Saturday in Guayaquil after the 9th policy council meeting of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, or ALBA.
Former Spanish magistrate Baltasar Garzon, Assange’s attorney, said Sunday that his client had requested minimum guarantees in answering the Swedish authorities’ accusations of sexual crimes.
Assange wants to respond to Swedish authorities to prove the inconsistency of the charges, “but he’s asking for some minimum, but sufficient, guarantees that up to now they have not authorized,” Garzon told reporters outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
“Julian Assange has always fought for truth and justice and has defended human rights and will continue doing so, so that the rights of WikiLeaks and ... those who are being investigated are respected,” Garzon said.
“Asylum has been granted and the Ecuadorian government has given us information that what we are defending is a persecution,” Garzon said.
Assange, for his part, said Sunday that the British police last Wednesday tried to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy, but they stopped given the presence of his supporters and the press.
“I heard a team of police officers who entered through the emergency exit, but they knew there were going to be witnesses,” Assange said, adding that thanks to the presence of the press “the world is watching.”
Assange thanked Ecuador, which he described as “that courageous Latin American country” for having “stood up” for justice, and he also thanked the Ecuadorian people for their courage, as well as President Rafael Correa for guaranteeing him political asylum.
Assange asked U.S. President Barack Obama to “do the right thing” and make a commitment before the world that there will be no persecution of him for leaking thousands of classified U.S. government documents and diplomatic cables via WikiLeaks.
The United States must give up its “witch hunt” against WikiLeaks and must promise that it will not bring to trial the employees and supporters of WikiLeaks, Assange said.
The 41-year-old WikiLeaks founder called for the release of U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who is in prison for leaking military secrets, and he called him a “hero” and an “example for us all.”
London’s Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, said on Sunday that they “did not enter” and “did not try to enter” the Ecuadorian Embassy to arrest Assange, as the Australian alleged.