'Ecuador has strong record of human rights': Assange and his mother hail asylum decision
"I am grateful to the Ecuadorian people, President Rafael Correa and his government. It was not Britain or my home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American nation” Assange said in an official statement released by WikiLeaks on Thursday.
Assange said that while the “historic victory” gave much cause for celebration, he demanded that the “unprecedented” US investigation against WikiLeaks be stopped.
“The task of protecting WikiLeaks, its staff, its supporters and its alleged sources continues," he said.
Assange also attempted to redirect attention back to Bradley Manning, the US soldier arrested in May 2010 for allegedly providing classified materials to WikiLeaks.
“While today much of the focus will be on the decision of the Ecuadorian government, it is just as important that we remember Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for over 800 days,” he concluded.
Manning, who is charged with 22 separate offenses including “aiding the enemy,” will likely face life in prison if convicted.
On Thursday, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced that after nearly two months of deliberation, his country would grant Assange political asylum.
Patino said the decision was prompted by fears that the WikiLeaks founder was at risk of being extradited to the US once UK authorities handed him over to Sweden.
“Judicial evidence clearly demonstrates that given an extradition to the US, Mr. Assange would not have a fair trial – he could be judged by special military courts, and it is not unlikely to believe he would be treated in a cruel and degrading way, that he would receive a life sentence or death penalty, with which his human rights would not be respected,” Patino argued.
The UK Foreign Office says it is “disappointed” by Ecuador's decision to protect Assange, but would not be swayed from its legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden.
UK authorities sparked an uproar by insinuating that British police could enter the Ecuadorian Embassy to arrest Assange if he was not handed over to their custody.
Ecuador responded that that any such move would be a “flagrant violation” of international law, constituting an “unacceptable act of hostility” which would force Quinto “to respond.”
Assange took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on June 19, requesting asylum in the wake of a failed 18-month legal battle to prevent his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with sexual assault allegations.
‘UK prepared to go to extreme measures' – Assange’s mother
Following news of Ecuador’s decision to grant her son political asylum, Christine Assange told RT by phone that she had every reason to remain optimistic while Julian’s fate was being decided.
“I was hopeful because I knew that President Correa, his government and the people wanted to ensure Julian’s safety, and they have a strong record of human rights and free speech,” she said.
“I was very heartened by the fact that the Ecuadorian government was willing to look into [the charge that Julian was being persecuted] and leave no stone unturned to find out the truth. They’ve done that and they’ve delivered an extremely sophisticated explanation as to why they’ve come to this decision; it’s a sound decision based in legal frameworks going back for a long time with precedents in international law [concerning] human rights.”
However, she also described how the turbulent events leading up to that decision had revealed the UK’s subservience to US interests.
“I was also aware, that, as you’ve seen, in the last 24 hours, that the British government at the bidding of the US was prepared to go to extreme measure and breach international law,” she said.
“If the UK is going to continue to be a lackey for the US and breach international obligations, then they may find themselves in international court,” she continued.
Christine further hopes that “Ecuador’s example will be a shining light to the rest of the world.”
During a visit to Ecuador, President Correa told her there was a clear and simple reason why some states were opposed to WikiLeaks.
“President Correa made a statement while I was over there; he said that the Ecuadorian government has nothing to hide. The governments attempting to curtail and destroy WikiLeaks are the governments with something to hide.”