UK meets with Ecuador over WikiLeaks’ Assange
By DAVID STRINGER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | September 28,2012
UNITED NATIONS — Ecuador has asked Britain whether fugitive WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be permitted to leave his London hideout for medical treatment, as the two countries met Thursday to seek to end a deadlock over the activist’s fate.
Assange has sheltered inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, beyond the reach of British police, since June 19 — a total of 100 days. He is seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crimes allegations.
Though Ecuador has granted Assange asylum, if he steps outside the building he will be arrested to be flown to Sweden.
In talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino asked his counterpart whether the U.K. would potentially allow Assange to receive medical care without risking arrest.
Assange appeared pale and sounded hoarse in an appearance via videolink to a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Wednesday. However, British officials said that Patino insisted there was no immediate concern about Assange’s health.
Britain pledged to consider the request and deliver an answer later — but reminded Patino that Britain was obliged under international law to deport Assange for questioning over the rape and sexual misconduct allegations.
Patino says that Ecuador granted Assange asylum because it accepts his fear that the Swedish sex case is simply part of a U.S. plot to put him on trial in the U.S. over his work with WikiLeaks.
Supporters of Assange claim he could face harsh conditions, or even the death penalty.
Hague told Patino that British extradition law includes extensive human rights safeguards. “He requested the government of Ecuador to study these provisions closely in considering the way ahead,” a spokesman for Hague said, on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.
“Both ministers agreed that they were committed to the search for a diplomatic solution to Mr. Assange’s case,” he said.
Patino and Hague are likely to meet again in the next two months to discuss the case.