Ecuador is seeking a mediator to resolve the standoff with Britain over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the country’s London embassy for more than five years now.
Assange, the Australian founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, has been confined to the South American country’s embassy since June 2012. He sought asylum in the Ecuadorian mission after Swedish prosecutors issued a European arrest warrant against him over allegations of rape and sexual assault filed by two women in 2010.
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa now says her country is seeking a “third country or a personality” to mediate a settlement with Britain and resolve the “unsustainable” situation.
“We’re considering and exploring the possibility of mediation,” she said on Tuesday. “A person cannot live in those conditions forever.”
There seems to be a shift in the policy of Ecuador’s new government with regard to Assange’s case compared to its predecessor. Whereas former president Rafael Correa had granted asylum to Assange whom he called “a journalist,” the incumbent Lenin Moreno has branded him “a hacker” but has given assurances that he is not facing expulsion from the embassy.
Assange has denied the accusations, saying the claims were politically-motivated and that the coercive measures were meant to silence him. He fears extradition to the US over his leak of classified data on WikiLeaks.
His publication of thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents was one of the largest information leaks in US history.
Last May, Sweden dropped the investigation into rape allegations, but still British police say Assange will be arrested if he leaves the building. The UK also refuses to guarantee that he will not be sent back to the US.
Ecuador says no solution can be achieved without the cooperation of the international community and of the United Kingdom, which has shown interest in seeking a way out.
Reacting to the Ecuadorian minister’s latest overture, a UK government spokesman said, “The government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”
A UN panel ruled in 2016 that Assange was being “arbitrarily detained” and should be allowed to walk free. It said he should also be compensated for his “deprivation of liberty.”