WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange marks three years of being confined to Ecuador’s embassy in London on Friday, as recent events point to the possibility of a breakthrough in the diplomatic and legal deadlock that have kept in the embassy compound.
Assange has virtually been “imprisoned” since he sought political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London on June 19, 2012.
Ecuador said Wednesday it was assessing a request from Sweden to question the anti-secrecy activist at its London embassy, in relation to accusations of sexual misconduct made by two Swedish women.
Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said it received the petition Friday via its embassy in Stockholm, state news agency Andes reported.
“At this time, Ecuadorian authorities are evaluating the request in the spirit of judicial cooperation that characterizes the nation’s government, and the framework of obligations and powers that international law and Ecuadorian jurisdiction confer on it regarding the asylum seeker,” the ministry said in a statement.
The interview can take place “when the permits and necessary arrangements are ready,” the ministry added.
Ecuador and numerous international legal experts have long recommended Swedish prosecutors travel or use video-conferencing to question Assange, who risks immediate arrest by British police if he steps outside the embassy grounds, but Sweden steadfastly refused to do so until March this year.
In an about face, Sweden said its prosecutors would travel to question Assange sometime in June or July, and would conduct a DNA test on him.
“The prosecutors said the reversal was due to the statute of limitations on some of the alleged offenses expiring in August,” according to Andes.
Assange took refuge at the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden — which he believes would hand him over to U.S. authorities seeking to try him for espionage and other crimes, after his website divulged evidence in 2010 of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, among other things.
The allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies, were also made in 2010, shortly after the revelations appeared on WikiLeaks.
Ecuador granted Assange asylum, but Britain refused to grant him safe passage out of the country. Assange, meanwhile, agreed to travel to Sweden for questioning if given a guarantee he would not be turned over to the U.S., but Sweden has refused to offer such a guarantee. Enditem