Ecuador sees 'light at end of tunnel' in Assange case

19th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

The surprise offer by Swedish prosecutors to question WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at Ecuador's London embassy over rape allegations offers a clear breakthrough in the deadlocked case, Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Thursday.

Assange took refuge in the London embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden and has been ensconced there ever since.

"This allows us to see a light at the end of the tunnel," Patino told reporters in Washington.

"That light is still not close, but this is the first time there is a movement in the Swedish judicial system suggesting that it may proceed with an interview."

The top Ecuadoran diplomat said he welcomed the Swedish move, but regretted it had not taken place earlier.

Up to now, Swedish prosecutors have refused to go to London to question the 43-year-old Australian former hacker over the allegations.

Assange has refused to go to Sweden to be questioned over the allegations, which he has vehemently denied, saying the sexual encounters were consensual.

But the prosecutor in charge of the case, Marianne Ny, said last week she was dropping her opposition as some of the alleged offenses will reach their statute of limitations in August.

Sweden issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 following allegations by two women in Sweden, one who claimed rape and another who alleged sexual assault.

Assange fears that Sweden would pass him on to the United States, where an investigation is ongoing into his anti-secrecy website's release in 2010 of 500,000 classified military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 250,000 diplomatic cables which embarrassed Washington.

Patino said Ecuador has had no contact with the United States regarding the Assange case.

"At the beginning of this case, we asked the United States if there were proceedings against Assange, and they responded that they could not give us that information," Patino said.

"Since then we have not discussed the case."

© 2015 AFP

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