Ecuador and Britain discuss fate of WikiLeaks’ Assange
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Officials from Ecuador and Britain met Thursday in New York over the deadlocked case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for 100 days. But though the two sides left the meeting vowing to meet again, there were no signs of a breakthrough.
Ecuador has granted Assange asylum to ensure that he can continue his activism. Britain says that if he leaves the embassy, it is obligated to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning on alleged sex crimes. Britain has also said “diplomatic asylum,” which Ecuador granted Assange, isn’t part of British law.
Assange and his supporters argue that the Swedish case is a pretext for him to be sent along to the United States, where his spilling of government secrets has angered officials. Assange claims he has been secretly indicted and could face the death penalty in the U.S. for ‘political crimes.’
The British Foreign Office said in a statement that Secretary William Hague had asked Ecuador to study
“the extensive human rights safeguards in U.K. extradition law.” Ecuador, in turn, asked whether Assange could get medical care outside the embassy without risking arrest, which Britain said it would consider.
“Due to the cordiality of the meeting with Secretary W. Hague, we trust we can find a diplomatic and friendly solution to the matter,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said on Twitter.
With little sign of how the two countries would reach agreement over Assange, Amnesty International argued Thursday that Sweden could break the impasse by publicly assuring that Assange would not be sent to the U.S. to face charges tied to WikiLeaks if he submitted to Swedish authorities. The human rights group said it has no evidence that Sweden plans to extradite Assange to the U.S., but doing so “would expose him to a real risk of serious human rights violations,” its statement said.
The U.S. State Department has derided statements made by Assange as “wild assertions” meant to deflect attention from the Swedish allegations. However, the secrets spilled by his website have led to a case against a former military intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified files to WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been charged with aiding the enemy, along with other offenses.
Neither Ecuador nor Britain said in their Thursday statements when they would meet again.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, left, and his British counterpart, William Hague, during a meeting Thursday in New York on Thursday. Credit: Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry