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Why Is Ecuador Julian Assange’s Choice for Asylum?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 20, 2012

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has appealed for asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. It’s a curious choice: under President Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s free speech record has been dismal.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

DAN KITWOOD / GETTY IMAGES

Julian Assange, the controversial Australian founder of Wikileaks, walked into Ecuador‘s London embassy on Tuesday to request political asylum. He may have picked just the right kind of government to accept him.

The South American country in April 2011 became the only one to officially expel a U.S. ambassador over the scandal generated by the thousands of leaked diplomatic cables. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa—a populist firebrand whose thin-skinned response to the stolen cables’ detailing police corruption in Ecuador prompted U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges’ dismissal—has faced global criticism over his track record on free speech and could see in Assange just the character to help him restore some of his tarnished credentials.

(READ: Out of Ecuador—a U.S. ambassador bites the Wiki-dust.)

The UK’s top court last week refused Assange’s final appeal against being sent to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual harassment, which he claims are politically trumped up. “Death threats, economic boycott and the possibility of being handed over to the authorities of the United States by British, Swedish or Australian authorities have led me to seek asylum on Ecuadorean territory and protection to allow me to continue with my mission,” he said in a letter read to the media in Quito by Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister. Assange says that he could face the death penalty in the U.S. for having published confidential government cables, along with thousands of Pentagon documents earlier. Patiño said that Ecuador hasn’t yet granted him asylum, but he may stay at the embassy until the Correa administration makes its decision. Last year, Quito fumed over the leaked cables, insisting their contents – which suggested that Correa had knowingly named an allegedly corrupt chief of police in order to be able to control him better – were completely untrue. Read the rest of this entry »

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