Friday

26th May 2017

Ecuador paints EU countries as US stooges

  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange helped leak thousands of classified US diplomatic cables. (Photo: acidpolly)

Ecuador has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange saying the UK and Sweden plan to hand him over to the US for "persecution."

Its foreign ministry in a statement on its website on Thursday (16 August) said it granted his request on grounds that if the UK extradites him to Sweden, then Sweden will hand him over to the US, where he risks "persecution … [and] cruel and degrading treatment" in a military trial which could end in life in jail or the death penalty.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Despite its own track record of silencing government-critical journalists, it added that Assange, who helped leak thousands of classified US diplomatic cables, is "an award-winning communications professional renowned internationally for his struggle for freedom of expression, press freedom and human rights."

Its foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, in a press conference in Quito also complained about British "savagery" after the UK threatened to strip his embassy in London, where Assange took refuge in June, of diplomatic privileges and to send in police.

"It is basically saying, 'We are going to beat you savagely if you don't behave … but if you behave, we may not beat you savagely," the minister noted.

Patino was referring to a letter from the British officials - which Ecuador leaked - citing a British law designed to snatch people who are a threat to national security.

"You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the embassy. We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange's presence in your premises, this is an open option for us," the letter said.

British foreign minister William Hague told press on Thursday that the extradition has nothing to do with Wikileaks.

"It is important to understand that this is not about Mr Assange’s activities at Wikileaks or the attitude of the United States of America.  He is wanted in Sweden to answer allegations of serious sexual offences," he said.

"The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum … even for those countries which do recognise diplomatic asylum, it should not be used for the purposes of escaping the regular processes of the courts. And in this case that is clearly what is happening," he added.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt also defended his country's reputation.

"We have again informed the Ecuador Ambassador about the principles of our independent judicial system. And rejected unfounded allegations," he said on Twitter.

"Our firm legal and constitutional system guarantees the rights of each and everyone. We firmly reject any accusations to the contrary," he said in a separate Twitter post.

Bildt's spokesman, Anders Joerle, added that Swedish law forbids extradition of people to places where they risk capital punishment.

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also deflected suggestions that the US is putting pressure on its EU friends.

"This is an issue between the Ecuadorans, the Brits, the Swedes … I have no information to indicate that there is any truth to that [allegations of US pressure] at all," she said in Washington on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the issue is spiralling into an international diplomatic crisis.

Ecuador has called for a snap meeting of Unasur, a quasi-EU club of South American countries, in Brazil on Sunday. The OAS, a club of North and South American countries, is also due to discuss the problem in Washington next week.

For its part, the EU is trying to steer clear of the affair.

"This is essentially a bilateral issue between the UK and Ecuador … [but] the EU delegation in Quito is following this case closely, in contact with the UK embassy," a spokesman for EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton told AFP.

Assange case highlights EU arrest warrant 'abuses'

The EU arrest warrant scheme under which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to be extradited to Sweden is a "threat to human rights," as it is often abused with harsh consequences for the lives of the people concerned, Europe's chief human rights defender Thomas Hammarberg said Tuesday.

UK arrests WikiLeaks founder on EU warrant

British police have arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden in a case of alleged rape. The development comes amid renewed cyber-attacks on his website and restrictions on access to the leaked cables by EU and US authorities.

EU officials give first analysis of WikiLeaks impact

More investment in European External Action Service security, loss of goodwill in the EU's special relationship with the US and heightened tension in the Middle East are all likely consequences of the WikiLeaks scandal, EU insiders say.

Nato head defends 'blunt' US leader

Nato chief Stoltenberg defended Trump’s behaviour at Thursday’s summit. The prime minister of Montenegro also apologised for him.

Trump lukewarm on Nato joint defence

Trump voiced half-hearted support for Nato and reprimanded allies over what he called unpaid debts on his maiden trip to Europe.

Trump lukewarm on Nato joint defence

Trump voiced half-hearted support for Nato and reprimanded allies over what he called unpaid debts on his maiden trip to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms