Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Monday his country would continue to provide political asylum to Assange, who walked into the embassy one year ago in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.
The news that Assange plans to remain holed up for another five years makes no difference from a Swedish perspective, explained Mårten Schultz, professor in civil law at Stockholm University.
“This does not affect the Swedish case whatsoever,” he told The Local.
“It is a matter for Ecuador and the UK to resolve and the British government is not likely to go against the extradition ruling from the Supreme Court or the European agreement.”
“According to the ruling, Assange should be extradited and there is no room now to argue that there is something wrong with the Swedish case. Now it is a question of enforcing the ruling.”
The most serious crime Assange is accused of is rape, where the statute of limitations runs out in August 2020.
For the other crimes – unlawful threat and sexual harassment – the statute of limitations runs out in August 2015, meaning that if Assange were to stay holed up in the embassy for long enough, he could eventually walk free.
A spokesman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority (Åklagarmyndigheten) told The Local that: “As long as Julian Assange is on British ground this remains an issue for Great Britain to resolve”.
He added: “Marianne Ny, the director of public prosecution, will not comment on the matter until Assange is in Sweden.”
However, the British Foreign Office said “no substantive progress” had been made in talks between Patino and British Foreign Minister William Hague.
Instead, the two ministers decided to appoint a working group made up of British and Ecuadorean legal experts to resolve the impasse.
At a press conference in London, Patino said that Assange’s situation was “totally unjust” and that both his government and Assange himself were prepared for a long wait.
He said the WikiLeaks founder had told him he was fit enough to spend another five years inside the tiny embassy.
“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,” Patino said after meeting Assange.