Friday, 12 August 2016 07:41

Sweden accepts Ecuador offer to interview Assange Featured


Sweden has made a formal request to Ecuador to interview WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in Quito's embassy in London, where he has been holed up for more than four years.

There was a standing offer from Ecuador to Sweden to conduct such an interview. Signs of a thaw in the impasse were reported last month.

A request from Sweden to the Ecuadorian attorney-general has met with a positive response, according to a published report.

"In the coming weeks a date will be established for the proceedings to be held at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom," according to a statement issued by Ecuador's Foreign Ministry.

Assange has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy since 19 June 2012. He was granted asylum by the country in August that year.

Proposals for the Australian to be extradited to Sweden for questioning were rejected by his lawyers because it was anticipated that his next journey would be a forced one to the US, where it is feared he will be hauled before a grand jury.

Although US authorities have never confirmed it, reports have said a grand jury is reportedly waiting to issue an indictment over Assange's alleged involvement in the leaks of confidential documents by former US soldier Chelsea Manning.

The documents and videos exposed several home truths about the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Manning is now in jail, and attempted suicide recently.

The Assange saga began in August 2010 when he visited Sweden to address a conference. During that visit, he had sexual relations with two women who later filed rape and molestation complaints against him, claims that he has denied.

Assange was subjected to questioning by Swedish authorities and cleared of all accusations at the time. He could have left the country but stayed a while, in case authorities wanted to speak to him again.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest on 20 November 2010 by which time he was back in London. He went there because he did not trust the government in his home country — the so-called Lucky Country, Australia.

Given its close ties with the US, Assange feared that Canberra would hand him over to Washington.

On 27 November, Assange surrendered to authorities and appeared before a Westminster judge. He was granted bail in December and supporters provided £240,000 in cash and sureties towards this end.

Lawyers from Sweden and Assange's side, among them the world-renowned Australian Geoffrey Robertson, wrangled over the issue until June 2012, when Swedish prosecutors asked the UK to extradite him.

Assange's lawyers fought the demand on the grounds that if he was sent to Sweden, then the US would seek to have him extradited for questioning.

On 19 June 2012, he jumped bail and entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking asylum. British police have since then blocked him from leaving.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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