Official in Ecuador’s leftist government offers residence for embattled founder of Wikileaks
Nov 29, 2010 20:28 EST
If WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange needs a home, Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister says this Andean nation is happy to provide one.
The 39-year-old Australian, who has incensed and embarrassed Washington with the release by his online whistle-blowing organization of hundreds of sensitive diplomatic cables, had sought residency and a work permit in Sweden.
But after the release by WikiLeaks beginning in late July of thousands of sensitive documents from theIraq and Afghan wars, a Swedish court ordered him detained for questioning on sexual assault allegations — claims Assange denies and calls part of a smear campaign.
Assange, who keeps his whereabouts secret and moves around a lot, could also face legal complications at home. Australia’s attorney general said Monday that it was studying whether he’d broken any laws there.
In contrast to the potential hostility from U.S. allies, leftist-run Ecuador provided Assange with an invitation Monday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas said in audio posted online by the EcuadorInmediato news site that “we are open to giving him residence in Ecuador, without any kind of trouble and without any kind of conditions.”
“We think it would be important not only to converse with him but to listen to him,” Lucas added, saying Ecuador wanted to invite Assange to “freely expound” and see what it’s like in “friendly countries.”
He praised people like Assange “who are constantly investigating and trying to get light out of the dark corners of (state) information”
Lucas said Ecuador’s government was “very concerned” by revelations that U.S. diplomats have been involved in spying in the first of the more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and directives that WikiLeaks has begun to release.
WikLeaks says it has 1,621 cables that originated in the U.S. Embassy in Quito. Their contents have not yet been disclosed.
Ecuador expelled two U.S. diplomats in early 2009, accusing one of directing CIA operations in Ecuador and another of interferring in police affairs.
The government continues close counternarcotics cooperation with the United States, but a year agoPresident Rafael Correa, a U.S.-educated economist, refused to renew the lease on what had been Washington’s only base for counternarcotics flights in South America, the Manta airfield.
He said that if Washington would grant Ecuador an air base in Florida, he’d be happy to host U.S. flight operations.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this report.