In an interesting turn of events, Ecuador has granted asylum to Australian media bad boy, Julian Assange. The WikiLeaks founder has more or less been on the run since late 2010 when a European Arrest Warrant was issued by Swedish police and Swedish law enforcement called Assange in for questioning regarding a sexual assault investigation involving two different women. Assange voluntarily surrendered himself to English authorities and spent 10 days in prison.
Assange appealed a decision by English courts to extradite him to Sweden, but the decision was upheld by the High Court in late 2011. Assange has reportedly been living in the Embassy of Ecuador in London since mid-June and asked the country to grant him political asylum. Assange has expressed concerns that if he were extradited to Sweden, he would then be extradited to the United States, where he could be tried for espionage stemming from the release of several hundred thousand secret diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks in 2010.
Ecuador’s foreign minister has said “because of the fears expressed by Mr. Assange, we believe that his fears are legitimate, and there are threats that he could face political persecution if the measures aren’t taken to avoid them.” So now that the country has granted him asylum, the question remains – why?
What does Ecuador stand to gain or lose by making such a move? What could this mean for Ecuador’s diplomatic relationship with England?
Linda Rabben, anthropologist, human rights activist and author of "Give Refuge to the Stranger: The Past, Present, and Future of Sanctuary"
Carol Wise, Associate Professor of International Relations, USC’s Dornsife School of International Relations