Ecuador continues to stand by WikiLeaks founder
Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa says the decision to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum will not be rescinded.
Nevertheless, Correa told reporters that Assange should respond to the sexual assault allegations against him by two Swedish women. "I don't want to judge allegations that have not been proven and would not, in any case, be considered a felony in Latin American, too," Correa told reporters in a statement quoted by the UK-based Guardian.
"It has never been the intention of the Ecuadorean government for Julian Assange not to respond to those allegations."
The Ecuadorian president also accused the British government of hypocrisy, claiming he was prepared for the standoff to last indefinitely - even if it risked alienating UK businesses and public support.
"If the UK distances itself from Ecuador as a result of this decision to grant asylum that would make us very sorry because we appreciate the United Kingdom - especially its people - but that will not make us go back on our position,” he explained.
"Despite the attitude of the United Kingdom, we as a country are obliged to act responsibly. As we have previously said, now that he has asylum, Mr Assange is entitled to remain in the embassy for as long as he wants."
Julian Assange was granted asylum by the Ecuadorian government on August 16. The WikiLeaks founder first entered the embassy on June 19 after all attempts to fight extradition to Sweden - where he faces charges of sexual assault - failed. Assange, who denies the accusations, is concerned that extradition to Sweden could ultimately lead to his eventual transfer and detention in the United States.
Indeed, Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino recently said his country believes Assange faces a genuine threat of political persecution and possible extradition to the United States where the WikiLeaks founder would be denied a fair trial.
"It is not impossible that he would be treated in a cruel manner, condemned to life in prison, or even the death penalty," Patino recently told journalists in Quito. "Ecuador is convinced that his procedural rights have been violated."
The foreign minister also said he hoped Britain would allow Assange to leave the embassy in London for Ecuador, a request the UK continues to rebuff. As such, Assange will likely remain in the Ecuadorian embassy for the foreseeable future.