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Britain Slammed For Not Granting 'Free Passage' To WikiLeaks' Assange

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino came down heavily on the British government on Friday for denying "free passage" to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been taking refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition.

Australian-born Assange was wanted by the Swedish police since 2010 for questioning over allegations of sexually assaulting two Swedish women. Assange, who denies the accusations, was granted asylum by the South American country and has been staying at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June last year.

Patino, who is on a four-day visit to South Korea, told a news conference in Seoul that the Ecuadorian government accepted Assange's asylum request "in line with international laws and on humanitarian grounds." He had met with
Assange and British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London early this week.

Patino said he asked Hague to grant a "free passage" for Assange, but he refused to do so, citing Britain's legal procedure. "If the British government continues to deny issuing free passage to Assange, it would be in violation of international laws and infringing on his human rights," the Yonhap news agency quoted Patino as saying at the press conference.

Assange shot to limelight by publishing tens of thousands of classified documents of the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon causing great embarrassment to the American government. He fears that he will end up in the United States if extradited to Sweden.

Patino also held talks with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se and other senior officials and business executives in Seoul.

He said South Korea and Ecuador had completed a feasibility study to begin free trade talks, and expressed the hope that negotiations could begin in the near future.

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