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Entries in Ecuador (9)

Friday
Aug312012

WikiLeaks Founder Says Swedes May Drop Case

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- In a South American television interview, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that he thinks he could be living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for up to a year, and that the Swedish government could drop its sexual assault investigation.

Assange, 41, has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy since June, when he fled there after British authorities approved his extradition to Sweden. The Swedish government wants to question Assange about allegations of assault made by two women. The Ecuadorean government officially granted Assange asylum earlier this month, but British authorities have said they will arrest him if he leaves the embassy.

Assange told Telesur, a channel seen in Ecuador and neighboring countries, that he thinks it will take six to 12 months for a resolution of his situation, and that he expects the standoff will be solved via diplomacy or through "an unusual world occurrence that we can't predict."

He said war with Iran, the outcome of the U.S. election or the "Swedish government dropping the case" could end the impasse. "I think this is the most likely scenario," said Assange. "Maybe after a thorough investigation of what happened [Swedish authorities] could drop the case."

In the interview, he also asserted that both he and his organization were the subject of political persecution. "Ecuador has been correct in showing its values in this case," said Assange.

Assange has said that he sought asylum because he feared the Swedish government could deliver him into U.S. custody. WikiLeaks has released thousands of State Department cables and other sensitive U.S. government information. The Ecuadorian government cited the threat of Assange's extradition to the U.S. in granting Assange's asylum request.

The Ecuadorean government has claimed that the U.K. has threatened to invoke a national law that would allow it to revoke the embassy's protected diplomatic status and take Assange from the embassy, an apartment in Knightsbridge, by force.

British foreign minister William Hague has denied that the U.K. has issued any threat to storm the embassy. This week, Hague said that "given Ecuador's position on what they call diplomatic asylum and our very clear legal position, such a solution is not in sight at the moment."

In August 2010, police in Sweden began investigating accusations of sexual assault against Assange made by two women. According to British police documents, one of the accusers claims Assange pulled her clothes off, pinned her arms and legs and refused to use a condom. She told a friend that the act was both violent and the worst sex she'd ever had. A British attorney representing Swedish prosecutors told the court earlier this year that Assange had raped the second woman while she was sleeping.

In May, the U.K. upheld the validity of the Swedish prosecutor's arrest warrant, making him subject to extradition to Sweden by the end of June. He had been living under house arrest at the mansion of a supporter in the English countryside. He sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy on June 19.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug242012

Ecuador's President Calls for Assange's Safe Pasage to His Country

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(QUITO, Ecuador) -- How long might WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have to live at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London?  It could be days, months or even years.

Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador which he sought to stop his extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges brought by two women.

Ecuador agrees with Assange that Sweden might turn around and hand him over to U.S. authorities who are anxious to try Assange for publishing thousands of formerly classified State and Defense Department documents on his website.

As long as Assange stays on the grounds of the Ecuadorian mission, he's safe. Otherwise, British police are free to arrest him and begin his extradition to Sweden.

However, the controversy could be put to rest immediately, according to Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, if Britain just allowed Assange to travel to South America without conditions.

Otherwise, Correa told the BBC, the standoff "could go on for months and years if Mr. Assange can't leave the embassy of Ecuador in London."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug192012

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Calls on President Obama to End 'Witch Hunt'

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared Sunday for the first time since he took refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, calling for the release of Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking documents to the whistlebowling website, and urging President Obama to "do the right thing" and end the "witch-hunt" against WikiLeaks.

For the past two years, Assange, 41, has fought extradition efforts to send him to Sweden, where he faces questioning over alleged sexual assaults against two women. The Australian has said he fears Swedish authorities will hand him over to U.S. officials.

Ecuador granted Assange political asylum Thursday, but he has been threatened with arrest if he leaves the country's 10-room London embassy, where he has been holed up for the past two months.

Appearing on a balcony, Assange read a prepared statement to more than 200 supporters, reporters and dozens of British police.

"I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks," Assange said. "The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters."

Assange called Bradley Manning, a U.S. soldier who is accused of passing classified material to WikiLeaks, "one of the world's foremost political prisoners."

"If Bradley Manning really did as he is accused, he is a hero, an example to us all," Assange said. "Bradley Manning must be released."

On Wednesday, Manning had entered his 815th day of detention without a trial. The legal maximum is 120 days, Assange said.

During his brief remarks, Assange also thanked Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa for "the courage he has shown in considering and granting me political asylum."

In an address last week, Correa discussed the decision to grant Assange political asylum.

"We've never said that Julian Assange shouldn't answer to the Swedish justice system nor contribute to the investigation into these supposed crimes," he said.

"What we have always asked for is a guarantee that there won't be a second extradition to a third country, as that would put at risk Mr. Assange's life and freedom," he said.

Correa also responded to what he called a "threat" sent in a letter from the British government, which said officials could lift the embassy's diplomatic status, allowing officers to enter the embassy and arrest Assange.

The UK's Foreign Office later told the BBC the letter had been sent to clarify "all aspects of British law that Ecuador should be aware of."

Correa stood his ground and fired back in his weekly address.

"Who do they think they're dealing with?" he said. "They don't realize Latin America is free and sovereign. We won't tolerate interference, colonialism of any kind."

For the time being, Assange remains safe in the confines of the embassy, which is considered Ecuadorean soil, however in order to reach the country, he will have to make it to an airport and board a flight to South America, all while evading arrest by British police.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug162012

Ecuador Grants WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Political Asylum

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Ecuador will grant political asylum for Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, the South American country's foreign ministry announced today.

Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy on June 19, after a U.K. court declined to block his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sexual assaults. The Ecuadorian foreign ministry said the country had decided to grant asylum because Sweden could not guarantee Assange would not be extradited from there to the United States.

Assange has said he fears that Sweden will hand him over to the U.S. WikiLeaks has released hundreds of thousands of confidential U.S. documents on the web, including a slew of State Department cables going back years.

After Ecuador's announcement, a spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said the office was "disappointed" by the decision but said it will not stop Assange from being extradited.

"Under our law, with Mr. Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government's decision this afternoon does not change that," the spokesperson said. "We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act."

To get to Ecuador, Assange still have to get from the embassy, which is considered Ecuadorean soil, to an airport to board a flight to South America without being arrested by British police.

Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said today that if Assange steps foot outside the embassy he will be arrested.

"Harboring of alleged criminals or frustrating the due legal process is not a permitted function of diplomats under the Vienna convention," he said.

The British government has also reportedly reminded the Ecuadorean government that under law it can revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy, which would enable officials to enter the building and apprehend Assange.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug152012

Ecuador Official: Decision on Assange Asylum Thursday

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images(QUITO, Ecuador) -- Ecuadorean officials said Wednesday that they would announce their final decision on whether to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Thursday, but also claimed that the British government had threatened to raid the country's London embassy to get Assange back.

"Today we've received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange," said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.

Patino said that Ecuador will announce its decision on Assange's asylum request Thursday morning. Some media outlets reported Wednesday that Assange had been granted asylum, but Ecuadorean officials said at the time that no decision had been reached.

Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy on June 19, after a U.K. court declined to block his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sexual assaults.

Assange has said he fears that Sweden will hand him over to the United States. WikiLeaks has released thousands of confidential U.S. documents on the web, including many State Department cables.

Should Assange win asylum in Ecuador, he would still have to get from the embassy, which is considered Ecuadorean soil, to an airport to board a flight to South America without being arrested by British police.

British diplomatic officials in the U.S. did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment. According to the BBC, a Foreign Office spokesman said the U.K. government is, "committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."

The British government has also reportedly reminded the Ecuadorean government that under law it can revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy, which would enable officials to enter the building and apprehend Assange.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun212012

Julian Assange Seeks Asylum: Why Ecuador?

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sought asylum in a London embassy Tuesday, hoping to dodge extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations, some observers may have wondered why he chose to throw himself on the mercy of Ecuador.

Assange apparently made his bid based on his past history with the left-leaning leadership of the South American country.  While the Ecuadorian government has said it is weighing his request for asylum, and U.K. police wait outside the gates to arrest him should asylum be denied, two top Ecuadorian officials are already on record as fans of Assange.

In November 2010, then-Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas extended an explicit offer of residency to Assange.

"We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions," Lucas said.  "We are going to try and invite him to Ecuador to freely present, not only via the Internet, but also through different public forums, the information and documentation that he has."

President Rafael Correa walked those remarks back the following day, saying he had not authorized the offer.  But Correa is open about his admiration for Assange.

Earlier this month, Correa appeared as a guest on Assange's television talk show, The World Tomorrow, which airs on the international cable channel Russia Today (RT), and praised WikiLeaks.

During the 26-minute interview, Correa and Assange discussed the importance of the freedom of the media, the role that an independent press plays in a democracy, and the state of Latin American media institutions.

"We believe, my dear Julian, that the only things that should be protected against information sharing and freedom of speech are those set in the international treaties, in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights: the dignity and the reputation of people, and the safety of people and the State," Correa said.  "The rest, the more people find out about it, the better."

"We have nothing to hide," he added.  "If anything, the WikiLeaks have made us stronger."  

He noted that he thought the tightly-knit fabric of the Ecuadorian media establishment tended to limit its scope and objectivity.  Assange responded by telling Correa that Ecuador sounded like "a very interesting place."

Assange has now been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since Tuesday.  He sought refuge with the Ecuadoreans while out on bail pending his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning for two alleged sexual assaults.

Assange had been living under house arrest at the mansion of a supporter in the English countryside and was subject to an overnight curfew.  By spending Tuesday night in the embassy, he violated the terms of his bail and is subject to arrest if he exits the Embassy's property, Scotland Yard said on Wednesday.

He has also forfeited the $380,000 bail donated by his supporters.

Last month, the British Supreme Court upheld the validity of a Swedish prosecutor's arrest warrant, and he is subject to extradition to Sweden by the end of June.

In August 2010, police in Sweden began investigating accusations of sexual assault against Assange made by two women.  According to British police documents, one of the accusers claims Assange pulled her clothes off, pinioned her arms and legs and refused to use a condom.  She told a friend that the act was both violent and the worst sex she'd ever had.  A British attorney representing Swedish prosecutors told the court earlier this year that Assange had raped the second woman while she was sleeping.

Assange has denied any wrongdoing.

Assange accused Sweden of investigating him because of "political crimes" in the United States, "a place with the death penalty for said offenses."  His supporters say that he fears extradition from Sweden to the U.S. for prosecution.

Rafael Correa's current term as Ecuadorean president is set to expire in August 2013, but he is eligible to run for reelection for another term that would last until 2017.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Seeks Asylum at Ecuador Embassy

BERTIL ERICSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seeking political asylum in Ecuador after taking refuge in its embassy in London Tuesday.

The Ecuadorian embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed to ABC News that the 40-year-old Australian national, who faces extradition to Sweden over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women, was on the grounds of the embassy in London and had requested asylum. The Ecuadorian government said in a statement that it is "evaluating the request of Mr. Julian Assange and whatever decision that we adopt about him will take into account the respect for the norms and principles of international law."

According to the Ecuadorian government's statement, Assange said he was seeking asylum because his home country "had declared that they will neither defend nor guarantee the least [of my rights] in front of any government."

"These statements make it impossible for me to return to my home and place me in a state of indefensibility," the statement quotes Assange as saying.

Assange accused Sweden of investigating him because of "political crimes" in the United States, "a place with the death penalty for said offenses."

Though it remains unclear how Assange reached the Ecuadorian embassy, news first broke of his seeking asylum on the WikiLeaks Twitter account, which tweeted, "Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London."

Ecuador's deputy foreign minister had indicated publicly in 2010 that Assange could come live in the South American country. "We are open to giving him residence in Ecuador, without any kind of trouble and without any kind of conditions," said Kintto Lucas. Lucas is no longer the deputy foreign minister.

Assange has been under house arrest in a mansion in the British countryside since December 2010. He has hosted a television talk show on the international cable channel Russia Today, or RT, from the house since March. Last week, the highest court in Britain rejected his appeal to block his extradition to Sweden.

In August 2010, police in Sweden began investigating accusations of sexual assault against Assange made by two women. According to British police documents, one of the accusers claims Assange pulled her clothes off, pinioned her arms and legs and refused to use a condom. She told a friend that the act was both violent and the worst sex she'd ever had. A British attorney representing Swedish prosecutors told the court earlier this year that Assange had raped the second woman while she was sleeping.

Assange has denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, in a 5-2 vote, the British Supreme Court upheld the validity of an arrest warrant made by a Swedish prosecutor to question Assange over the assault accusations.

In its ruling, the court dismissed Assange's argument that the Swedish Prosecution Authority, which issued the warrant in November 2010, did not have the legal authority to do so.

But the court also granted a request from Assange's attorney for 14 days to make an application to reopen the case. The court rejected the bid to reconsider his case on June 14, clearing the way for him to be extradited to Sweden before the end of June.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr052011

Ecuador Expells US Ambassador over WikiLeaks Cable

RODRIGO BUENDIA/ AFP (WASHINGTON) -- Ecuador asked U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges to leave the country as soon as possible on Tuesday, making her the most recent diplomat to become involved in a diplomatic dispute generated by a WikiLeaks disclosure.

Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Hodges was expelled for accusing national police commander Jaime Hurtado Vaco of corruption and for speculating that President Rafael Correa was well aware of the commander's wrongdoings.

The grounds from expulsion evolved on Monday when the Madrid newspaper El Pais published a WikiLeaks cable dated July 10, 2009. The cable quoted Hodges as saying Vaco used his position as commander "to extort cash and property, misappropriate public funds, facilitate human trafficking, and obstruct the investigation and prosecution of corrupt colleagues."

The U.S. State Department has called the expulsion "unjustified." There is no word on how else the department plans to act.

The WikiLeaks website began releasing confidential U.S. diplomatic cables in November resulting in a string of diplomatic turmoil for U.S. ambassadors. Since January, ambassadors in Libya and Mexico were asked to leave and a former ambassador to Turkey was threatened with a lawsuit from the Turkish prime minister.

Copyright 2011 ABC Radio News

Thursday
Sep302010

Ecuador Unrest: President Correa In Danger?

Photo Courtesy -- Getty ImagesUPDATE:  1 Casualty Reported In Ecuador Protests

(QUITO, Ecuador) -- One person has been reported dead and several more injured following protests in the Ecuadorian capital Quito.

The security minister said the casualties followed an all-out riot near a hospital where President Rafael Correa is now holed up after being shoved and tear-gassed by police officers – angry at proposed pay and benefits cuts.

The airport has since re-opened and there is reported looting.

(QUITO, Ecuador) -- According to a message released from the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador on Thursday, "a large nationwide strike by all levels of police, including military police, is developing at this time." 

The message, addressing U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Ecuador, warned that airports and possibly major highways may be closed as a result of the unrest and that "the security situation has degraded significantly."  The message further urged American citizens to stay inside their homes as "even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence." 

According to officials, the U.S. remains supportive of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, as well as the institutions of Ecuador's democratic government. 

Ecuadorian police and a number of military personnel began protesting against attempts by President Correa to cut their pay and benefits as part of austerity measures.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio








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