The move marks yet another turn in the saga of Assange, but leaves almost as many questions as it answers. Assange remains in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he is under the country’s diplomatic protection. However, Assange has violated provisions of his bail, and British officials have indicated they will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy or tries to depart from the country.
Furthermore, the move could put U.S. aid to Ecuador in jeopardy. It will also damage the relationship between Ecuador and both Sweden and the U.K.
For Assange to leave the country, Ecuador will need to either find a way to spirit Assange out of the country without discovery by British officials — something that is highly unlikely — or Ecuador will need to successfully negotiate for Assange’s release.
Ecuador’s decision to grant Assange asylum is not surprising. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has been an outspoken advocate of the anti-American gadfly. According to a report by CNet, Assange had actually been offered asylum some time before he requested it.
Assange rose to prominence after founding Wikileaks, a website dedicated to sharing leaks from nations and corporations. His organization played a pivotal role in releasing classified information regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that was allegedly leaked by U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning.
While Assange has been praised by many for his willingness to publish sensitive information, he has also been criticized for working with governments that are not friendly to their local media, including hosting a show on RT, a channel operated by the Russian government.
In 2010, a European Arrest Warrant was issued, requiring Assange to be extradited to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault involving two women. Assange has fought extradition while in England, but his appeals in the British legal system were rejected. On June 19, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy.
Assange has said that he is unwilling to go to Sweden because he fears the U.S. will extradite him from the Scandinavian nation to face espionage charges. However, departing for the relatively unstable Ecuador has its own risks. Correa survived a coup attempt in 2010, and he has alleged the attack had its genesis in the CIA. While the Correa government has guaranteed Assange’s safety, it’s anyone’s guess what future Ecuadoran governments might think about their high-profile Australian exile.
Image Credit: Jeff Fecke