Julian Assange asylum controversy is fast deteriorating, with Ecuador accusing Britain of threatening to storm into London embassy to arrest the founder of the whistle blowing website Wikileaks. The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Pino responded to the critical situation by saying that such a move would be a ‘flagrant violation’ of international law.
"We are not a British colony", said Foreign Minister.
Pino further said that he would announce on Thursday whether Ecuador would grant the request to former Australian hacker, who took refuge in Ecuador’s embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. It is also important to mention here that even if Assange is granted asylum by Ecuador he cannot leave Ecuadorean embassy without being arrested.
In the massive mayhem that has taken place in the case of Assange, it is being believed that it will be well-appreciated if he voluntarily takes the initiative of offering himself for trial and avoid any further diplomatic chaos.
Image From: Reuters
Why is Assange Important for Ecuador and President Rafael Correa?
Just before making headlines by offering Assange asylum in their country, Ecuador was in the news for a crackdown engineered by the government on private media. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa led the relentless campaign against free speech and blamed private media for undermining his government.
In such circumstances offering asylum to Assange does look odd. But, it does not come entirely out of the blue. At the time when Wikileaks disclosed its secret documents, like many others even Correa was of critical about the website. But then his attitude changed.
So much so that in April Assange conducted a 75-minute long interview with President Correa for his TV show on Russia Today. For the president it was the moment of reconciliation, and he did made a smart political move in doing so.
The thing is, Correa has been in office since 2007 and is seeking re-election in 2013. Granting Assange asylum in Ecuador would play an important role in his image cleansing and bad track record when it comes to media policies. He will be able to give a smart answer to his critics by providing asylum to a person who is known as the champion for freedom of speech.
The Cost Ecuador will pay for the asylum
However, apart from offering Assange with asylum there are more practical considerations that weigh on Correa’s mind. Foremost of these is the possible effect of the economic relations that Ecuador has with US. At present Ecuador has a preferential agreement with the US on some 1,300 goods and the deal is up for renewal in January. There is news making rounds that Ecuador will have to face consequences on political as well as economic plane in the form of US sanctions if asylum is granted to Assange. This is something President Correa does not want under any condition.
Furthermore, any future somersaulting by Correa’s government on media or freedom of speech will only plunge Wikileaks and Assange into a deeper abyss.