Ecuador seeks assurances Assange won’t be re-extradited to US

Supporters of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange gather outside Ecuador's Embassy in central London June 20, 2012. (Reuters/Paul Hackett)
Ecuador says it is trying to avert “the evil” of the re-extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US after the completion of legal proceedings in Sweden and has been seeking assurances from the UK that it will not happen.

­"In legal terms…the evil that Ecuador wishes to prevent is the extradition [of Assange] to the US. Now if there are ways and means of that being tied down, I think that would be a just solution," British daily newspaper The Guardian quotes a senior legal adviser to the country's embassy in London as saying.

Before taking refuge there on June 19, Assange spent 18 months under house arrest trying to appeal a court ruling to extradite him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on suspicion of sexual misconduct.

Assange and his supporters believe that he may subsequently be re-extradited to the United States to face charges of espionage, as WikiLeaks published thousands of US classified documents.

The embassy says since Assange has taken refuge on their premises, diplomats have been in contact with both the Swedish and UK governments, focusing on what is likely to happen to the WikiLeaks founder once legal proceedings in Sweden are over.

The senior legal adviser said that Ecuador had repeatedly inquired whether the UK would take the chance to waive the "specialty”, which in the case of Assange would mean he would only be extradited to Sweden, without the chance of re-extraditing him afterwards.

Two officials at the Ecuadorian embassy said they have not yet received any answer from either the UK or Sweden regarding legal guarantees that Assange will not be further re-extradited.

A political adviser to the Ecuadorian government says in this situation they are seeking both to be an "honest broker" and adhere to international obligations.

In particular, Ecuador has already offered Swedish authorities the opportunity to interview Julian Assange at its London embassy, but Stockholm did not respond to the proposal.

Ecuador also raised the topic of a potential life sentence which, according to its law, may be equally inhumane because in this case the person is “condemned to a death sentence [for] life.”

Earlier, Ecuadorian officials said the decision on whether to grant Julian Assange political asylum will be made after the Olympic Games, ensuring it will not affect the Ecuador’s relations with Britain.

Michael Ratner, one of the attorneys for Julian Assange, fears his client might have already either been secretly indicted by a Grand Jury set up in Washington – or transferred to the United States, where he could potentially face charges. He believes the death penalty remains a possibility.

"I have no doubt there is a serious investigation, which has gone on, and is continuing, into Julian Assange and WikiLeaks," he said.

Ratner, however, doubts the US would confirm to Ecuador it intended to prosecute Assange.

If Julian Assange leaves the premises of the embassy, he faces immediate arrest for breaching his bail conditions.

London police have already stationed two officers outside the building.