Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has said that the allegations against Julian Assange would not constitute a crime if they had occurred in Ecuador.
Assange, who has been accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden, has been granted asylum by Ecuador. He is currently under Ecuador’s diplomatic protection at their embassy in London.
“I don’t want to judge allegations that have not been proven and would not, in any case, be considered a felony in Latin American, too,” Correa said, according to The Guardian.
Correa added that it has “never been the intention of the Ecuadorean government” for Assange to avoid answering the Swedish allegations, but that they wanted assurances that Assange would not be extradited to the United States if he went to Sweden.
Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has said that he fears prosecution by the United States related to the leaking of classified documents supplied to him by Army PFC Breanna (formerly Bradley) Manning. Assange has not been indicted or otherwise charged by the U.S., and extradition to the U.S. would require the approval of the United Kingdom.
Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden with regard to sexual assault charges relating to two incidences in 2010. His attorney has admitted that Assange penetrated one sexual partner while she was sleeping, and that he did so without a condom, which she had insisted he wear. That act would constitute rape in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and most other western nations. Assange’s attorney has maintained that Assange is not guilty, because the woman did not stop him after waking.
Assange has been fighting extradition from London, but has exhausted his appeals in the British legal system. Assange fled to the Ecuadoran embassy in June, violating the terms of his bail agreement and sparking a diplomatic crisis.
Correa is a strange ally for a man who has built his reputation on the free dissemination of information. Correa has been critical of the west, but has also been criticized for cracking down on news organizations in Ecuador that disagree with him. In the press gathering in Guayaquil, Correa said of the Ecuadoran media, “Don’t let yourself be fooled by what’s going. There is this image of the media as being about Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate and the struggle for freedom of expression. But that isn’t the case here.”
Correa said that Assange will be allowed to stay at the Ecuadoran embassy for “as long as he wants.” The British government has maintained that it will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy or otherwise attempts to flee the country.
Image Credit: Billy Bob Balin