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Assange meets Ecuador minister in London

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a fleeting public appearance on Sunday as he welcomed the Ecuadorian foreign minister to his refuge at the South American country's embassy in London.

Assange meets Ecuador minister in London

Ricardo Patino said Assange was in “good spirits” despite the “limitations” of his accommodation.

The foreign minister is in Britain for a meeting with counterpart William Hague to try and find a solution to the impasse which has led to Assange spending one year in the embassy in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden.

The foreign minister arrived at the embassy at 6.30pm and waved to around one hundred Assange supporters before heading inside the building.

Shortly afterwards, the pair opened a window in Assange’s ground floor residence and greeted supporters before returning inside for talks, which lasted around an hour.

“I have just finished meeting with Julian Assange who is in good spirits despite the limitations of his accommodation,” said Patino.

“I was able to say face to face to him, for the first time, that the government of Ecuador remains firmly committed to protecting his human rights and that we continue to seek cast iron assurances to avoid any onward extradition to a third state.”

Assange and WikiLeaks insist that Britain’s real aim in seeking to deport him to Sweden, where prosecutors want to quiz him over allegations of rape and sexual assault, is to send him to the United States.

“During the meeting we were able to speak about the increasing threats against the freedom of people to communicate and to know the truth, threats which come from certain states that have put all of humanity under suspicion,” added Patino.

Hague and Patino are searching for a diplomatic solution to the stalemate, which was triggered when Assange turned up at the embassy demanding asylum on June 19 last year.

Assange said Sunday’s meeting was “very good” and that Patino had “set out how he and the Ecuadorian government are actively seeking a solution to my present situation.

“I remain immensely grateful to the support Ricardo, President (Rafael) Correa and the people of Ecuador have shown me over the last year,” he added.

Crowds gathered outside the embassy carrying banners offering support to Bradley Manning, the US Army private who is facing charges that he passed hundreds of thousands of secret government files to WikiLeaks.

Others called for former US spy Edward Snowden, who recently exposed vast US surveillance programmes, to be protected.

Assange supporter Edwin Pazmino urged Britain to strive for an agreement at Monday’s talks.

“Coming from a country which was a pioneer of human rights, never has there been such an injustice,” said Pazmino, a 43-year-old Ecuadorian.

“I hope that tomorrow at the meeting with the British minister we will get something positive and Britain will give Assange safe passage to Ecuador,” he added.

AFP/The Local/og

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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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