World Bulletin / News Desk
Ecuador is likely to announce a decision on whether to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before the end of the week in a case with diplomatic implications around the world, President Rafael Correa said on Monday.
Assange has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sex crime allegations.
The former computer hacker, who enraged Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, says he fears he could be sent to the United States, where he believes his life would be at risk.
"We have to review the process in Sweden," Correa said in a television interview. "We have to look at the possibility that he may be extradited to the United States, that there may be a secret court there, that he may face the death penalty.
"We expect to have a meeting on Wednesday (with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino) and I hope to make an announcement before the end of the week."
Leftist leader Correa said he sympathizes with Assange but also feels respect for the British legal system and for international law. He said his government already has gathered enough information to take a responsible decision.
Neither U.S. nor Swedish authorities have charged Assange with anything. Swedish prosecutors want to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two WikiLeaks supporters in 2010. Assange says he had consensual sex with the women.
It is not clear how Assange would travel to Ecuador if he is granted asylum. By diplomatic convention,British police cannot enter the embassy without Ecuador's approval. But he has no way of boarding a plane to Ecuador without passing through London and exposing himself to arrest.
Correa last month met with Assange's mother, who traveled to the Andean country to plead for her son's asylum request. Patino also met with former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, who was appointed to head Assange's legal team.
It is not clear why Assange, an Australian citizen, chose Ecuador but he interviewed Correa online in May and the two exchanged plaudits. The interview showed a shared distaste for U.S. foreign policy and big media outlets.
"Cheer up. Welcome to the club of the persecuted," Correa told Assange at the end of the 25-minute interview.
Like other Latin American presidents, including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales, Correa is a fierce critic of what they see as U.S. imperialism.
Correa expelled the U.S. ambassador in 2011.
Some interesting facts about Muslim nations and the players in this year’s competition.
Global tide of forcibly displaced people rose 2.9M last year; Turkey hosts largest refugee population, most Syrians
Republican-controlled Senate votes 85-10 for fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier that nearly 40 foreign fighters allied to Syria's regime were killed in the raid in eastern Syria.
Osman Askin Bak says Turkey prepared to host 2024 UEFA European Football Championship
12,845 registered Turkish voters cast ballots for Turkey's presidential, general elections in New York
Settlers clash with Israeli police over illegal settlement outpost built on Palestinian land
Israeli army strikes at al-Bureij refugee camp in Gaza Strip
US will implement 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods that 'contain industrially significant technologies,' White House says
Airstrikes target PKK terror group in mountainous Qandil region
Colombians go to the polls in the second round of presidential elections
Restaurant chain to ditch plastic drinking straws in UK by 2019 and begin testing alternatives elsewhere
Nearly $200M still frozen after Trump authorizes administration to use funds to bolster White Helmets, UN
Gaza's Palestinians celebrate end-of-Ramadan holiday amid steadily worsening economic conditions