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Sweden slams Ecuador's asylum decision

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Sweden slams Ecuador's asylum decision
16:50 CEST+02:00
Sweden rejected Ecuador's claim that Julian Assange would not get a fair trial as a basis for granting asylum, and summoned the Ecuadorian ambassador to explain Quito's decision.

"We think that it is unacceptable that Ecuador would want to halt the Swedish judicial process and the European judicial cooperation. Assange is wanted in Sweden on suspicion of sexual offences and it is important that the legal process can run its course," Swedish foreign ministry spokesman Catarina Axelsson told The Local on Thursday evening.

Axelsson confirmed Sweden's stance that the accusations made by the Ecuadorian foreign ministry are serious and that the ministry strongly repudiates them.

Although she said that a meeting between the ministry and the Ecuadorian ambassador had been announced to take place as soon as possible she was unable to disclose whether it had already occurred or was yet to happen.

However, foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted during Thursday evening:

"We have again informed the Ecuador ambassador about the principles of our independent judicial system. And rejected unfounded allegations."

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19th after a British court ruled he could be extradited to Sweden for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault.

On Thursday, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Quito decided to grant him asylum as London, Stockholm and Washington refused to guarantee that Assange would not be sent on to the United States where he fears trial for the release of a trove of classified US documents by his whistleblowing website.

The lawyer representing the two Swedish women who filed the original complaints against Assange said he was puzzled by Ecuador's decision.

"I find it very difficult to understand why," lawyer Claes Borgström told AFP.

"He managed to change the focus. He is accused of rape and sexual assault but he managed to get people to talk only about Wikileaks and the United States," the lawyer said.

Claiming that Quito was politically motivated in making its decision, Borgström said: "All this is revolting for my clients who have been considered for two years as conspirators."

The lawyer meanwhile praised Britain's determination to extradite Assange to Sweden, despite Ecuador's decision, while Swedish prosecution said it has no direct impact on its work on the case.

"The fact that Julian Assange was given asylum today changes nothing to the state of the Swedish preliminary investigation," the prosecution said in a statement.

"Assange is in the Ecuador embassy in London, which is on British territory. The case still concerns Britain and the prosecutor therefore cannot unveil any information," it said.

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