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Editorials
These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

Correa shelters Assange

The judicial saga surrounding the WikiLeaks founder requires a diplomatic solution

The judicial saga of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened on Wednesday with the decision by Ecuador to grant him “diplomatic asylum” in its London embassy after the British government had threatened to forcibly remove the Australian citizen from the premises with backing of a law designed to prevent terrorism. Such an extreme action would, in any case, be difficult to justify within international law in a case such as this one. In the midst of the judicial and diplomatic whirl of events, it is important to remember that, despite the recent statements by the Ecuadorian administration, the country which is demanding the extradition of Assange is not a dictatorship, but rather Sweden. And for a reason which has nothing to do with freedom of expression or the leaking of secret US documents, but rather an investigation into alleged sexual assaults.

The basis of these accusations remains confused and no charges have yet been made against Assange, but it is the Swedish judiciary which must resolve all of this. Sweden is a democracy and a country which has done a great deal to promote the rule of law and the protection of women, so its intentions should not therefore be put in doubt. But Assange and his supporters insist that from Sweden he would be extradited to the United States in retaliation for the publication of the secret State Department cables, among other data dumps.

This marks a new approach in the defense strategy of Assange, and, of course, he has every right to pursue it. However, the decision of President Rafael Correa’s government is clearly an act of defiance toward London and Washington. The formula of “diplomatic asylum” is applied in Latin American nations and not one that is recognized by the UK authorities, which explains why it has said it will not allow Assange to leave the country. The Ecuadorian government says that it is acting in the interests of freedom of expression when Correa himself does not always offers sufficient guarantees of this right in his country.

The Assange case seems to have entered a dead-end street, opening a serious diplomatic rift between Quito and London. International law and the rights of the accused must be respected. A police raid on the Ecuadorian Embassy would be a grave mistake. Britain holds up the existence of a 1987 law which was passed as a result of an extreme case — that of the fatal shooting of a policewoman from within the Libyan Embassy. Even though the approval of a judge is a necessary condition for its implementation, that legislation is a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention.

For the present, Assange will have to stay put inside the embassy, knowing that if he sets foot outside, he will be arrested. It is a situation which is far more comfortable than that of Bradley Manning, the person who leaked much of the information that WikiLeaks later published. The soldier is being kept in isolation in a Virginia prison, pending trial. His fate is also deserving of the world’s attention.

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