Britain lodges formal protest with Ecuador over asylum to WikiLeaks founder

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

Britain said on Thursday that it would lodge a formal protest with Ecuador over its decision to provide asylum to WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, in its London embassy, and so prevent his extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.

British Foreign Office Minister, Hugo Swire, said Ecuador must recognise that its decision to harbour Mr. Assange more than three years ago, had hampered justice from following its proper course .

The comments came after Swedish prosecutors dropped inquiries into three allegations of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion against the 44-year-old Australian, as they had run out of time to press charges.

However, they said they would push on with an investigation into an allegation of rape in 2010, levelled against him.

Mr. Swire said Mr. Assange, who denied any wrongdoing, had been held in Ecuador’s London embassy since June 2012, to avoid being extradited to Sweden.

“The WikiLeaks founder fears he will be extradited to the U.S. where he could be tried for one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

“He has published thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables five years ago, which infuriated Washington,’’ he said.

Mr. Swire said Mr. Assange breached his bail conditions to go to the embassy.

The minister said British police had guarded the building in the upmarket central London neighbourhood of Knightsbridge day and night ever since, at an estimated cost of more than 10 million pounds.

He said it was completely unacceptable that the British taxpayer has had to foot the bill for this abuse of diplomatic relations.

Mr. Swire added that Britain still had a legal obligation to extradite Assange, while the rape allegation remained outstanding.

“I have instructed our ambassador in Quito to reiterate to Ecuador that the continuing failure to expedite the Swedish Prosecutor’s interview, and to bring this situation to an end, is being seen as a growing stain on the country’s reputation.”



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