Assange asylum decision causes Quito-London diplomatic spat

Ecuador president sticks up for Wikileaks founder

Assange asylum decision causes Quito-London diplomatic spat

(ANSA) - Quito, August 17 - Ecuador's decision to grant Wikileaks founder Julian Assange political asylum has created a diplomatic tussle between the Latin American country and the UK. After a verbal spat between the UK foreign office, which Thursday said it would proceed with the planned extradition of Assange to Sweden, where he faces rape charges, and Ecuador's foreign minister, which accused Britain of using colonial arrogance, the Daily Mail said Cameron - on vacation in Spain - called Foreign Secretary William Hague and asked him to keep calm and tone down statements. Meanwhile Friday Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa defended his country's decision to offer Assange asylum on the basis that he might end up in the United States and possibly face the death penalty. Repeating remarks Thursday by his foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, Correa explained that Sweden - the country to which Britain was to extradite the Wikileaks founder - would not offer guarantees that it would not subsequently extradite Assange to the US. "The problem is that there are no guarantees in the case he leaves the Embassy and goes to Sweden, that he will then not be extradited to a third country, and in this case his life or his freedom could be in danger for the rest of his life. For this reason Ecaudor decided to grant him political asylum," Correa said Friday in the town of Loja, in Peru. On Thursday Patino said that if Assange were to end up in the US, where the government accuses him of having leaked sensitive military and diplomatic documents, he could face life in prison and, possibly, the death penalty. Assange petitioned Ecuador for asylum in June. He is seeking to avoid being sent to Sweden over claims of rape and sexual molestation, and said he fears that if extradited, Swedish authorities could eventually hand him over to the United States. Keeping an eye on the "Scarlet Pimpernel", as Assange has been nicknamed, is already costing the UK government up to £50,000 per day, the Daily Mail reports, as special agents have been placed to observe the embassy and make sure Assange doesn't manage to slip out. The Wikileaks founder might be in for a long stay. According to various British legal experts cited in local reports the asylum proceedings could last several months or even years.

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