By Jim Wyss
The government of Ecuador on Friday said WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange should be granted safe passage to the South American nation after Swedish authorities dropped their investigation of him.
Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for five years avoiding extradition to Sweden where he was wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual assault. Prosecutors eventually interviewed him at the embassy in November. Sweden dropped the investigation on Friday.
In a series of tweets, Ecuador Foreign Minister Guillaume Long questioned the delays.
“Ecuador regrets that it took Swedish Prosecutor more than four years to carry out this interview. This was a wholly unnecessary delay,” Long wrote. “The European arrest warrant no longer holds. The UK must now grant safe passage to Mr. Julian Assange.”
British police, however, say Assange is still facing arrest if he leaves the compound. The Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued a warrant for Assange’s arrest following his failure to surrender in June 2012, and London police say they are obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy.
The warrant is based on the Swedish charges, however, so it is uncertain if it would remain valid if challenged in court. Ecuador says it will discuss the matter with British authorities in the coming days.
Assange took to Twitter to say that he’d been sequestered without charges “while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.”
Assange has long feared that the Swedish allegations were a ploy to have him extradited to the United States for WikiLeaks’ role in publishing classified documents. U.S. authorities, however, have never acknowledged he might be facing charges.
While WikiLeaks’ role in the U.S. elections (the site published the emails from Hillary Clinton’s server) was worldwide news, Assange was also an issue in Ecuador’s April presidential election.
Opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso, who lost the race, had said he would evict Assange from the embassy.
Ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno, however, said he will follow the policy of President Rafael Correa and let Assange fight the charges. Moreno will be sworn in as president next week.
Assange says he looks forward to moving to Ecuador.
Credit: Miami Herald, www.miamiherald.com