Sweden slams Ecuador’s asylum decision

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.

Sweden slams Ecuador's asylum 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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Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.