Ecuador hits back at UK criticism over Julian Assange


Ecuador has hit back at the UK Government over who is to blame for the deadlocked case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Australian has been living in Ecuador's embassy in London for over three years to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces sex allegations.

Three of four investigations were dropped last week after they became time-lapsed.

Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said Ecuador's decision to harbour Mr Assange had prevented the proper course of justice.

He said the UK continued to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.

"The continuing failure to expedite the Swedish prosecutor's interview, and to bring this situation to an end, is being seen as a growing stain on the country's reputation," he said.

Ecuador's acting minister of foreign affairs, Xavier Lasso, said he "categorically rejected" the accusations.

"It is not acceptable to try to place the responsibility for the lack of progress in this area over the last five years on Ecuador."

He said if there was an abuse of diplomatic relations, it had been committed by the UK Government, recalling that it not only threatened to "violate the immunity of diplomatic premises" but it had maintained an "invasive police cordon" outside the embassy in London.

"The British Government has the sole responsibility for such an invasive and unnecessary police deployment.

"The Republic of Ecuador will not take lessons from any foreign government, least of all those that are unaware of the institution of political asylum; its legitimacy, attached and enshrined in international law, and its humanitarian nature based on the sovereign equality of nations."

Mr Assange fears being taken to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks.

Police are guarding the embassy in an operation which has cost more than £12 million so far.