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.
With the latest advances, Ramadi and all its surrounding areas have been retaken from ISIL, opening a road to capital Baghdad
EU energy commissioner says the aim of the proposals 'is simple: to prevent and mitigate possible security of gas supply crises'
Lyutvi Mestan's new party to be called the Democrats for Responsibility, Freedom and Tolerance, abbreviated 'DOST' in Bulgarian
The cause of the accident near Bad Aibling, around 60 kilometres southeast of Munich, is not immediately clear
The country's bombing mission against ISIL in Iraq and Syria is set to end by February 22
A stable Libya is in the interests of the whole of the Maghreb and the whole of Europe,' European Parliament chief says
Human Rights Watch urges US president to call for ‘dismissal of politically motivated charges’ against former opposition leader when he meets Malaysian PM next week
Greece cannot protect Europe, new line of defense should be established at borders with Greece, says Hungarian PM
Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus president says he wants to see Cyprus adopt two-zone federal structure
Presidential council has asked the Tobruk-based parliament to grant it an extra week to form unity govt under UN deal
'As we have seen in the tumult across the Middle East and North Africa, when governments do not lift up their citizens, it's a recipe for instability and strife,' US president says
'The passengers were intended for another airline, Turkish Airlines,' Daallo Airlines CEO says
Premier David Cameron's office fears that 'thousands of people' could be crossing into UK if the country leaves EU
According to an army source, Iraq is deploying thousands of troops hoping to retake the key northern city
'The idea is to send a message to migrants that there is a double fence so give up crossing illegally,' a senior army official says