WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has always been under political persecution without any real charges, the Ecuadorian foreign minister told RT, calling for a prompt decision by the UK to grant him safe passage.
Ecuador has always been convinced that Assange was holed up in their London embassy, not because of the Swedish investigation, but due to political persecution over the publications of WikiLeaks.
“We always had suspicions of possible political persecution against Assange and now we see that we were right,” Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador Guillaume Long said in an interview to RT Spanish on Saturday. “Ecuador was right, there was a much more disturbing political background.”
Long said that Ecuador was pleased to hear the news of Sweden dropping its inquiry into the Assange case, but it came too late, as there were no “charges against Assange and there are none of them now.”
He now hopes that Britain will allow Assange to go free, as there are only “minor charges that do not require any complicated procedures and can be settled with a suspended sentence.” He added that such cases are quickly dealt with in Britain “if there is a will for it.”
“What is now happening in Britain is the direct consequence of the case opened by Stockholm.”
“With the end of the case in Sweden, it is necessary to give him a safe passage from the United Kingdom so that he could leave the country,” Long said, stressing that the WikiLeaks co-founder “already has paid a very heavy penalty.”
Meanwhile, London’s Metropolitan Police said that Assange will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy. He remains wanted “for failing to surrender to the court” back in 2012.
Assange still is under the protection of the Ecuadorian Embassy, as there is a threat that he can be persecuted by the US due to his whistleblowing activity.
“They want to detain Assange, which confirms that we were right that there was political persecution against him because of his journalistic work,” Long said. He recalled that Trump wanted to arrest Assange, while CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.” US authorities have been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks activities for around seven years, after the website released classified US data.
“We have seen in recent weeks that the United States suddenly begins talking of a trial against him, like the one over Chelsea Manning, who has luckily been freed,” he said.
The situation “did not bring anything good” to the UK, according to Long. Assange’s five-year stay in the embassy cost British citizens a hefty sum. The Ecuadorian Embassy was surrounded by security forces which cost £12 million ($15.6 million) in just the first three years, making it roughly £11,000 a day, according to British media.
“They were caught between a rock and a hard place. The British have felt this cost on their own pockets,” the minister said in the interview.
Julian Assange entered London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012, after a two-year home arrest for allegations of rape in Sweden. A UN panel stated in February 2016 that Assange had been arbitrarily detained, demanding the UK and Sweden set him free.
On Friday, the Swedish prosecutor dropped the case involving rape accusations against Assange. The WikiLeaks co-founder said he will not “forgive or forget” being “detained for 7 years without charge.”