Rumours fly on Ecuador granting Assange asylum

It appears that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is closer to being granted asylum by Ecuador, however, the move might just be symbolic.

While Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa was tipped to have agreed to give the WikiLeaks founder asylum, but waiting for a good time to announce it. Even if he does, Assange might not be able to leave the London embassy.

At the moment, Assange faces arrest as soon as he leaves the embassy for breaching his bail conditions, and he would have to be granted a safe pass from the British government.

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, told the Guardian that he is checking to see if that is possible. The British government is unlikely to want to allow Assange to leave.

It might be for this reason Correa stuck a spanner in the works and wrote on Twitter: “Rumour of asylum for Assange is false. There is still no decision on the subject. I await report from  foreign office.” Assange retweeted the message.

But another good reason might be to do with timing. Although Correa led a crackdown on private media last year, granting the WikiLeaks founder asylum could be a way for him to depict himself as a champion of freedom of speech ahead of the February 2013 presidential elections.

Assange’s defection was planned several months ago, well before he sought refuge in the embassy. He had confidential negotiations with senior London embassy staff before showing up. The embassy had discussed Assange’s request but the British government, however, “discouraged the idea”, the official said. The Swedish government was even less happy.

Based on this it seems that Ecuador’s government thought that Britain and Sweden might welcome the chance to get the whole Assange case away from them. However, Sweden seems desperate to have him tried as a sex pest, and Britain’s government feels that it has invested a lot of court time trying to process him and wants its money’s worth.

Ecuador said that Assange’s request was a humanitarian issue. An embassy spokesperson claimed the country’s government views his work as parallel with its own struggle for national sovereignty and the democratisation of international relations.