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Britain invites Ecuador to resume Assange talks

Britain wants to resume talks with Ecuador and find a diplomatic solution to the standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as soon as possible, Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday.

Britain invites Ecuador to resume Assange talks

Addressing parliament, Hague also said Assange could not be extradited from Sweden to a third country without Britain’s consent, which would not be given if there was a prospect of a death sentence being imposed.

Assange took shelter in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June after exhausting all appeals against extradition from Britain to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault allegations. Ecuador has granted him diplomatic asylum.

The 41-year-old Australian fears Sweden will hand him over to the United States, where he could face prosecution over the release of a vast cache of leaked Iraq and Afghanistan war reports and diplomatic cables.

“We wish to continue our dialogue with the government of Ecuador,” Hague said in a written statement to parliament.

“We believe that our two countries should be able to find a diplomatic solution.

“We have invited the government of Ecuador to resume, as early as possible, the discussions we have held on this matter to date.”

Hague said London had fully addressed Quito’s concerns about Assange’s human rights and fears of onward extradition.

“The suggestion that there would be a risk of a breach of Mr Assange’s human rights on extradition to Sweden is completely unfounded,” he said.

“The suggestion that Mr Assange’s human rights would be put at risk by the possibility of onward extradition from Sweden to a third country is also without foundation.”

Sweden, under the European Convention on Human Rights, would have to refuse extradition in circumstances that would breach Assange’s human rights, and would also be “legally obliged” to seek Britain’s consent before any extradition to a non-European Union country.

“Our consent may only be given in accordance with the international conventions by which the UK is bound,” Hague said in his statement.

Britain could only consent to Assange’s onward extradition if it was satisfied that his human rights would be upheld, “and that there was no prospect of a death sentence being imposed or carried out,” he said.

Britain held seven formal discussions and several other spoken and written exchanges with Ecuador “in order to seek an acceptable resolution to this situation”, Hague said.

He said Quito had been reminded that article 41 of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations obliges embassies to respect the laws of the host country and “these include the duty not to impede the due legal process of that state”.

Hague said that while Ecuador was party to the 1954 Caracas Convention on diplomatic asylum, London was not and therefore was not obliged to meet Quito’s request for safe passage out of Britain for Assange.

A spokesman for the Ecuadorian government in London later said Hague’s statement had not assuaged their fears.

“What the UK government have failed to address over the last three months, including today, is the inhumane treatment that Mr Assange would face were he to be extradited to the USA,” said the spokesman, according to Britain’s Press

Association.

“The Ecuadorian government would welcome cast iron guarantees from the UK government that will make sure that the fate that has befallen Bradley Manning will not be meted out to Mr Assange,” he added.

Ecuador has said Britain had threatened to storm its embassy and seize Assange, but Hague said: “I have been consistently clear that we are not threatening the embassy of Ecuador.”

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JULIAN ASSANGE

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.

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