Ecuador has signalled that it is in no hurry to decide whether or not to give Julian Assange asylum after it today emerged that their ambassador to London has flown home for talks on the fate of the WikiLeaks founder.
Initial signs coming out of the country last week suggested a decision over Mr Assange’s request for sanctuary would be made swiftly with both president Rafael Correa and the a foreign minister Ricardo Patino making positive comments in public about the Australian-born campaigner’s plight.
But according to a statement posted on the London embassy’s website yesterday talks look set to drag on. Ambassador Anna Alban flew back to Quito over the weekend for talks with foreign ministry officials and the president as the Latin America country weighs up the diplomatic pros and cons of supporting Mr Assange’s request at the risk of angering Britain, Sweden and the United States.
“Ecuador presently finds itself in a unique situation and it is important that those responsible making the final decision on Mr Assange’s application are fully briefed on all aspects of the present situation,” the statement read.
The WikiLeaks founder is currently wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women in the summer of 2010. He denies the charges, saying they are politically motivated, but has so far refused to travel to Sweden to clear his name. Instead he has fought extradition proceedings brought by prosecutors in Stockholm through the British courts. Last Tuesday, shortly after the Supreme Court dismissed his final appeal to halt the extradition, Mr Assange walked into the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge and claimed asylum.
He insists that his decision to take such a drastic step was not motivated by a desire to avoid prosecution in Sweden, but over the fear that the United States might seek to extradite him because of the sensitive government data WikiLeaks has published. No extradition request has been made by Washington but a grand jury has been convened to see whether any chances could be brought.