LIMA, Peru — Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, appears to be leaning toward granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Due to be extradited from the UK to Sweden for questioning over alleged sexual offenses, last month Assange breached his bail conditions to seek refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy.
Since then he has refused to leave and has requested asylum and even Ecuadorean citizenship from Correa’s left-wing administration, which, like Assange, has an antagonistic relationship with Washington.
This week, Ecuadorean newspaper Hoy quoted Correa as saying: “If Assange’s life is at risk, these things would be a cause for granting asylum.” Controversially, he then went on to add: “In the United States there is the death penalty for political crimes.”
That was a clear allusion to Assange’s claims that he could face execution if extradited from Sweden to the United States where, he says, there is a sealed indictment against him for leaking classified secrets.
“We will consult with whomever we have to consult with, but we are not going to ask permission from anyone to make the sovereign decision to grant or not to grant asylum to the Australian citizen Julian Assange,” added the president.
For Correa watchers, that last assertion could hardly have been more redundant.