It's a nerve-rattling Friday for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as his last chance for freedom hangs precariously in the balance. The government of Ecuador was supposed to announce its decision on Assange's asylum request yesterday but no announcement has been made. Meanwhile, experts and officials in Britain insist that even if the South American nation accepts the asylum request, British authorities will immediately arrest him for breaking the terms of his bail as soon as he leaves the embassy. Has Ecuadorean President Raphael Correa gotten cold feet?
On Wednesday, Ecuador's Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that President Correa would make a decision on Thursday. "We still can't make a final decision public yet until tomorrow," he said Wednesday. "The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow." Unfortunately for Assange, that never happened, and by the sounds of statements made by Correa to reporters in Quito last night, we may not have an answer today either. “We are going to have to discuss with and seek the opinions of other countries," he said according to The Associated Press. "We don’t wish to offend anyone, least of all a country we hold in such deep regard as the United Kingdom." Additionally, after easing fears of his financial backers that his asylum request will eliminate any forfeiture risks of his bail money, Assange is now conceding that there's no guarantee Ecuador will comply. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, meanwhile, has no idea when a decision is expected. "It could take hours, it could take days" he said, noting that "Ecuador had asked for information from Britain, Sweden and the United States and would study it before making a decision."
Of course, Ecuador's impending decision may ultimately be moot, according to a new report by The Telegraph's Martin Beckford and Andrew Hough. The reporting pair seek out views from legal experts and U.K. authorities who say Assange will be apprehended and potentially locked up even if Ecuador grants him asylum:
Experts and authorities believe that even if Ecuador were to grant him asylum, he would face arrest the minute he walked out of the Knightsbridge building because he has breached his bail conditions. ... Scotland Yard confirmed: “A successful asylum bid does not change the fact that he has breached his bail conditions.” ... The embassy, in a six-storey Victorian building, is only accessible by a front and side door that are monitored by police, so it is unlikely he could leave without being spotted.
Reflecting on his own precarious situation, Assange lashed out against his home country for abandoning him in his time of need in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp last night. He said the government made an "effective declaration of abandonment" by refusing to intervene in his extradition to Sweden. Meanwhile, Assange's mother told The BBC, "My government is not my government any more. It's just a subsidiary of the United States. They got together to send him back to the US." No doubt President Correa is under immense pressure to decide what Ecuador will do with Assange.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.