Britain urged to grant safe passage to Assange
STOCKHOLM: Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Guillaume Long urged Britain yesterday to “grant safe passage” out of the country to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after Sweden dropped a warrant that drove him to take refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy.
“The European arrest warrant no longer holds. The UK must now grant safe passage to Mr Julian Assange,” minister Guillaume Long wrote on Twitter.
Assange, 45, took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden after two women made rape and sexual molestation allegations against him, which he denies. He feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified military and diplomatic documents.
Assange tweeted yesterday: “Detained for seven years without charge while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.”
Swedish chief prosecutor Marianne Ny said the rape investigation could not proceed because of legal obstacles.
“We are not making a statement about his guilt,” Ny said, adding that the investigation could be reopened if Assange came to Sweden before the statute of limitations deadline for the rape allegation in 2020.
London police said they were obliged to arrest Assange, if he left the embassy, for skipping bail. They said he could face up to a year in jail if convicted.
Assange is a cyberhero to some for exposing government abuses of power and championing free speech, but to others, he is a criminal who has undermined the security of the West.
The former computer hacker enraged Washington by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that laid bare highly critical US appraisals of world leaders.
Assange had said he was willing to go to the US if his rights were upheld and if ex-military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who gave classified materials to WikiLeaks, was freed. Manning was released on Wednesday after spending seven years in a military prison. Agencies