Thu, Jan 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Assange’s stay in embassy untenable, Ecuador says

The Guardian

Ecuadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Fernanda Espinosa speaks during a meeting with foreign journalists in Quito on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

The Ecuadoran foreign minister has said Julian Assange’s five-and-a-half-year stay in her nation’s London embassy is “untenable” and should be ended through international mediation.

The WikiLeaks frontman has been holed up in Knightsbridge since the summer of 2012, when he faced the prospect of extradition to Sweden over claims that he sexual assaulted two women.

He denies the accusations.

Swedish prosecutors earlier this year unexpectedly dropped their investigation into the allegations, which included a claim of rape, but Assange still faces arrest for breaching bail conditions if he steps outside the embassy and WikiLeaks has voiced fears that the US would seek his extradition and that there is a sealed indictment ordering his arrest.

WikiLeaks’ publications have included hundreds of thousands of US Army war logs and US Department of State diplomatic cables, and more recently e-mails from the Democratic National Committee during the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May last year said that Assange’s arrest was now a “priority.”

Ecuadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Fernanda Espinosa said her nation is seeking a “third country or a personality” to mediate a final settlement with Britain to resolve the impasse, and said it was “considering and exploring the possibility of mediation.”

“No solution will be achieved without international cooperation and the cooperation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out,” she told foreign correspondents in Quito, Agence France-Presse reported.

Assange, who has received numerous visitors to his modest quarters in the embassy, ranging from Nigel Farage to Lady Gaga, has described the period since his initial arrest as a “terrible injustice.”

Not being able to see his children grow up was “not something I can forgive,” he said.

For several years, Metropolitan police officers have maintained a constant watch of the embassy, which is situated behind Harrods in central London, at a cost of at least £1.1 million (US$1.5 million), according to figures released by Scotland Yard in June 2015.

Four months later, police lifted the round-the-clock guard on the basis it was no longer proportionate.

A UN panel in 2016 concluded that Assange was under arbitrary detention.

A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said that from its perspective: “He is free to leave the Ecuadoran embassy whenever he wants.”

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