Sweden asks to meet Julian Assange inside Ecuador embassy
Ecuador has received a formal request from the Swedish authorities to interview Julian Assange, inside its London embassy, in a potential breakthrough to the long-running saga. The WikiLeaks founder, 44, is wanted for questioning over a 2010 rape allegation in Sweden, which he has always denied. He has been living inside Ecuador’s UK mission for four years in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, saying he fears he would then be transferred to the US to face political charges for orchestrating leaks of diplomatic cables. Ecuador has been asking throughout Assange’s stay that he be interviewed inside the embassy, and said it welcomed the apparent Swedish “change of heart, and signs of a new political will” Ecuador’s foreign minister, Dr Guillaume Long, said on Monday, however, that the country may require fresh legal assurances before it allows Swedish prosecutors access. The Swedish attorney general made a formal request that was being considered, Long said. Long also asked why the UK was unwilling to accept a February ruling by a UN working group that Assange was being arbitrarily detained. The UK Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire, who met Long on Monday, has called for the UN decision to be reviewed, pointing out that Assange was staying in the embassy voluntarily, and that the UK had a legal duty to extradite him to Sweden. Britain claims the UN decision is flawed and has no legal status. The UN found that Sweden was not being diligent enough in its prosecution, including its failure at the time to offer to interview him in the embassy. Long said: “Interviewing Mr Assange inside the embassy has been Ecuador’s request for four years. Over 1,400 days we have been asking the Swedes to come and interrogate him in our embassy. So it is welcome there has been change of heart and some sign of political will. “But since November 2010 and March 2015 Sweden made 44 such requests to other countries to interview suspects in other cases. So it is very common and could be easily done, but we faced total refusal for years.” Long said Ecuador’s legal department needed to examine the request, and must also view it in the context of the UN ruling and the lack of sworn guarantees from the US. Ecuador would also want assurances that the UK would not seek to prosecute Assange for avoiding arrest. Some in the Foreign Office fear a permanent impasse between the UK and Ecuador, and that Assange will stay in the embassy until 2020, by which time a statute of limitations applies under Swedish law on the rape case. “I do not think waiting for another four years is a solution. That would be quite wrong,” Long said. “Assange is suffering deteriorating health, he has a small space and little light. It is an embassy under siege. It is very difficult to make a phone call, the internet collapses the whole time, pictures are taken as people enter and leave the building.” There will be presidential elections in Ecuador in 2017, and although the current leader, Rafael Correa, has stated that he will stand aside after 10 years in office, Long said he was “pretty confident” his Allianza Pais party would be re-elected, bucking the trend for leftwing Latin American governments to fall or come under intense popular pressure. Long said the Correa government was still relatively popular, — despite the slump in commodity prices and allegations of civil liberties abuse, partly because the country had suffered so much political instability before. “What is amazing about Correa is that after 10 years in office, he remains consistently popular,” he said. He said inequality remained the driving issue that all governments had to confront in Latin America. “Most of Latin America’s problems, social economic or political, derive from inequality and any government that does not tackle that issue is not tackling Latin America’s main problem,” he said.
OK… everyone repeat after me. Let’s all say, “FINALLY!!!!!!!!” The fact that it’s taken Sweden this long to make this interview request is well, it’s beyond ridiculous! It definitely should have happened much sooner, (like as in 5 years ago sooner!)