Ecuador offers WikiLeaks' Assange asylum, Sweden Still Seeks Arrest

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Ecuador has offered to protect Julian Assange, pictured above in a screenshot from a RussiaToday YouTube interview posted this summer. (Credit: YouTube, "Russia Today")

While the U.S. government condemns WikiLeaks for its publication of 250,000-plus secret diplomatic cables, the search for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still on, iMediaEthics has confirmed.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister reportedly offered to host Assange and give him residency without any conditions, foreign wire service the AFP reported.

“We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions,” Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas reportedly told the Internet site Ecuadorinmediato.

“We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the Internet but in a variety of public forums,” he is quoted as saying.

iMediaEthics spoke with the communications director of the Swedish prosecutor’s office yesterday.  The director, Karin Rosander, confirmed with iMediaEthics that Sweden still has an arrest warrant out for Assange.

Rosander added in an e-mail to iMediaEthics that “Sweden still has an arrest warrant out for Julian Assange, which means that national police forces, through Interpol, will be searching for him.”

As iMediaEthics reported two weeks ago, Swedish authorities obtained a warrant for Assange for charges of sexual molestation and rape involving two Swedish women.

International policing organization INTERPOL told iMediaEthics yesterday that it has applied for a Red Notice, but not an international arrest warrant.  INTERPOL clarified that it doesn’t issue international arrest warrants.

However, a search of INTERPOL’s Red Notice database doesn’t generate a notice for Assange.  StinkyJournalism e-mailed Swedish prosecutor’s communication director Karin Rosander asking if the red notice application was approved.  Rosander responded:

“Due to secrecy reasons the prosecutor cannot answer this question at the moment.”

According to an e-mail from INTERPOL to StinkyJournalism, a Red Notice is “one of the ways in which INTERPOL informs its 188 member countries that an arrest warrant has been issued for an individual by a judicial authority.”  “Many” member countries do view Red Notices as “a valid request for provisional arrest,” though.  National police officers of member countries make arrests stemming from Red Notices.

However, “INTERPOL cannot demand that any member country arrests the subject of a Red Notice.” INTERPOL redirected our questions about the warrant to Sweden’s prosecution as “INTERPOL Sweden has not officially authorized disclosure of its Red Notice application, its status or content.”

Meanwhile, the Australian government “pledged to back any legal action initiated by the United States against” Assange, RTTNews reported.

“Australia will support any law enforcement action that may be taken, the US will be the lead government in that respect, but certainly Australian agencies will assist,” Attorney-General Robert McClelland reportedly said.

“From Australia’s point of view we think there are potentially a number of criminal laws that could have been breached. The Australian Federal Police are looking at that,” McClelland is quoted as saying.

McClelland also told the Associated Press that he didn’t know if the U.S. asked for Assange’s Australian passport to be revoked.

Last week, Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, also slammed the intended leaks, according to the AP. Gillard reportedly called the leaks “reckless.”

The Washington Post noted that Assange, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, said “he was considering immigrating to Switzerland.”

Sweden rejected Assange’s application for residency this fall.

iMediaEthics wrote to the Swiss embassy asking if Assange was seeking asylum in Switzerland.  The head of communications and cultural affairs for the Embassy of Switzerland in the U.S., Norbert Baerlocher, responded to StinkyJournalism via e-mail neither confirming nor denying if Assange was.

Baerlocher wrote:

“Switzerland grants temporary or permanent protection to persons who suffer from political persecution in their native country or who have been forced to flee from the ravages of war. Asylum seekers undergo individual asylum proceedings in the course of which a decision is taken on the recognition of refugee status.  In order to avoid putting asylum seekers at additional risk, the names of people applying for asylum in Switzerland are not published.”


U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the U.S government is investigating the leaks yesterday, Reuters reported.

“There is an active, ongoing criminal investigation that we’re conducting with the Department of Defense,” Holder reportedly said in a news conference. “We are not in a position as yet to announce the result of that investigation.”

“To the extent that we can find anybody who was involved in the breaking of American law and who has put at risk the assets and the people that I have described, they will be held responsible, they will be held accountable,” Holder said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the leaks “an attack” and said that the U.S. government is “taking aggressive steps” against those responsible for the leak, NPR reported.

“Let’s be clear. This disclosure is not just an attack on America — it’s an attack on the international community,” Clinton is quoted as saying yesterday at a State Department press conference.

“There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations,” she reportedly said.

See here iMediaEthics’ other reporting on WikiLeaks.

UPDATE: 11/30/2010 10:06 AM EST:  Added links and a quote from Karin Rosander’s email to StinkyJournalism.

UPDATE: 11/30/2010 11:10 AM EST:  Added another quote from Karin Rosander’s email to us.

UPDATE: 11/30/2010 7:13 PM EST:  INTERPOL has listed Assange on its “worldwide wanted list,” the Guardian reported.  Assange is “said to be at a secret location somewhere outside London,” the Guardian added.  See the wanted notice here, calling for Julian Paul Assange, born in Townsville, Australia…The wanted notice is in the category of sex crimes.

UPDATE: 12/2/2010 10:02 AM EST: Christian Science Monitor reported this morning that “Police in Britain know WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s whereabouts in the country, but have not acted on an international arrest warrant for him.”

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Ecuador offers WikiLeaks’ Assange asylum, Sweden Still Seeks Arrest

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