Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Tuesday warned that any move by the British government to forcibly arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from his country's embassy in London would be equivalent to committing diplomatic suicide.
"I think it would be suicidal for Great Britain because then people could enter their diplomatic premises all around the world and they wouldn't be able to say a thing," Correa told state TV on Tuesday.
Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador last Thursday. He had arrived at the Ecuador Embassy in London on June 19, seeking diplomatic asylum in the South American nation to avoid extradition to Sweden linked to allegations of sexual misconduct. He has been inside the Embassy since then.
Earlier, the British Supreme Court had rejected the Australian's final bid in June for a possible appeal against his extradition. Prior to that court ruling, Assange was arrested in London on a Swedish arrest warrant in December 2010 and was subsequently freed on conditional bail.
The British police have since served Assange with extradition notice at the Ecuadorian Embassy, but they have been unable to arrest Assange for breaching bail conditions and extradite him to Sweden as he is currently on diplomatic territory.
Regarding an earlier threat by the British government to forcibly arrest Assange from the embassy after revoking its diplomatic status, President Correa said: "While the United Kingdom hasn't retracted nor apologized, the danger still exists."
The Ecuadorian President also dismissed the British government's claims that it is legally committed to extraditing Assange, saying: "The British say they have no choice but to extradite him but why didn't they extradite Augusto Pinochet?"
The British government insists that it is legally committed to extraditing Assange to Sweden as the Australian has already exhausted all his options under British laws to avoid extradition. But it has expressed willingness to finding an amicable solution to the diplomatic stand-off with Ecuador.
Several other South American nations have pledged support to Ecuador in wake of the British threat to arrest Assange from the embassy. Nevertheless, Britain continues to insist that it will arrest Assange under the Extradition Act if he leaves the embassy.
"We're hoping for clear and coherent backing because this violates all inter-American law, all international law, the Vienna Convention and all diplomatic traditions of the last, at least, 300 years on a global scale," Correa said Tuesday.
Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning over allegations of rape and molestation of two women while on a visit in August, 2010. He has since admitted to meeting the two women while in Sweden, but denied having engaged in any non-consensual sex with them. He claims that the case is part of a smear campaign aimed at discrediting his controversial website and is politically-motivated.
WikiLeaks, a website that publishes leaked classified information online, had earlier released some 250,000 classified U.S. military documents and cables sent from American Embassies around the world to several newspapers, embarrassing Washington in the diplomatic front. That move fueled a wave of public anger in the U.S., resulting in numerous calls for bringing Assange to justice for alleged treason.
Assange fears that he could be later extradited from Sweden to the United States on separate charges relating to publishing classified U.S. military and diplomatic cables, for which he could face death penalty there. In response, the Swedish Foreign Ministry insisted last week that Sweden "does not extradite individuals who risk facing the death penalty."
by RTT Staff Writer
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