We need help to get Julian Assange out of our embassy, says Ecuador foreign minister
Julian Assange was granted political asylum and took up residence at the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012
Officials at the Ecuadorean embassy are seeking a mediator in an attempt to oust Julian Assange from the premises five years after he took refuge there.
Yesterday María Fernanda Espinosa, the country’s foreign minister, said that she would seek a “third country or a personality” to help to end the “untenable” situation in central London.
Mr Assange’s stay at the red-brick mansion block close to Harrods began in the summer of 2012 after he lost a legal battle against extradition to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual assault.
Mr Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, lost at every level of the British legal system then sought refuge at the embassy and was granted political asylum because of his fears that he would be extradited to the US, where he believes he would be at risk of torture and detention for espionage and sedition.
Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation into Mr Assange after interviewing him, but he still faces arrest by Scotland Yard for violating the terms of his bail in the British legal case. Ms Espinosa said: “No solution will be achieved without international co-operation and the co-operation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out.”
She added that Mr Assange’s situation “from a human point of view is not sustainable. A person cannot live forever in these conditions and we are searching in a very respectful way with the United Kingdom . . . for a solution.”
It is the first time that Ecuador has proposed mediation to resolve the case, but it has been a poorly kept secret that staff at the embassy, who refer to Mr Assange as “the guest”, have been agitating for an end to the impasse.
The government in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, has asked Mr Assange several times to refrain from declarations or activities that could affect its international relationships, but Mr Assange has made his views known on certain issues, including his support for Catalan independence.
Spain said that there were signs that he was “trying to interfere in and manipulate” the Catalan crisis after he was visited by a pro-independence figure.
Mr Assange was granted asylum under President Correa, who stepped down last year. Mr Assange is at odds with his successor, Lenin Moreno, and on Monday Mr Correa said that his asylum was at risk under the new president although Ms Espinosa said that diplomatic protection “will continue unchanged”. She added, however, that his “physical and psychological integrity are at risk” from his extended confinement in the embassy.
Ecuador has dismissed two ambassadors since Mr Assange moved in, largely over failures to break the deadlock over his presence.