Ecuador: Why Did It Take Sweden 1,000 Days to Agree to Question Julian Assange in Our U.K. Embassy?

20.03.2015 - Democracy Now!

Ecuador: Why Did It Take Sweden 1,000 Days to Agree to Question Julian Assange in Our U.K. Embassy?
(Image by Snapperjack from London, UK for Wikimedia Commons)

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño responds to recent reports Swedish prosecutors will seek to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Assange has never been charged over allegations of sexual assault, yet he has been holed up in the embassy since 2012, fearing that if he steps outside, he will be arrested and extradited to Sweden, which could lead to his extradition to the United States — which is investigating Assange over WikiLeaks publishing classified documents. “We are pleased to see the Swedish prosecutors say that they now want to take the statements from Julian Assange at our embassy,” Patiño says. “But at the same time, we are concerned that 1,000 days have gone by, 1,000 days with Julian Assange confined in our embassy, before they say that they are going to do what they should have done from day one.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to turn to another topic: the situation of Julian Assange. He has been residing in your country’s embassy in London, and recently Swedish authorities offered to come to London to interview him. I’m wondering—this is a significant development, given the amount of time he has spent, basically in isolation, there in your embassy. Your comment and your reaction to the latest announcement of the Swedish authorities?

FOREIGN MINISTER RICARDO PATIÑO: [translated] We view favorably and we are pleased to see the Swedish prosecutors say that they now want to take the statements from Julian Assange at our embassy. But at the same time, we are concerned that 1,000 days have gone by, 1,000 days with Julian Assange confined in our embassy, before they say that they’re going to do what they should have done from day one, which was offered by the government of Ecuador. We told the Swedish prosecutory authorities, the Swedish government, that we were open and willing to facilitate conditions so that they could take a statement. And that’s the first action that the Swedish justice system should have in order to respond to the complaint by two persons who have lodged a complaint against Julian Assange. But the thing is, four-and-a-half years have elapsed since the complaint was lodged—two years where he had an electronic apparatus attached to him in London and then two more years in our embassy. And now the prosecutor says that she’s going to take the statement because the statute of limitations might run on the crime. The question is: Why did they let so much time go by? And who is going to pay Julian Assange compensation for 1,000 days of confinement? I reiterate, we are pleased with this decision, because it is recognition that they could have done it. The problem is, and they’ll have to explain, including to the—the Swedish prosecutors will have to explain to, among others, human rights bodies in Europe why they hadn’t done so before, because the violation of Julian Assange’s human rights, having had him confined 1,000 days in our embassy, and then recognizing that, yes, they should have done this earlier—well, somebody’s going to have to give an explanation.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about the original decision that your country, Ecuador, made to allow Julian Assange to stay in the embassy, to grant him political asylum? And if he were able to leave the embassy, would he be able to come to Ecuador to live?

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Categories: Human Rights, Politics
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