WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London, seeking asylum in a last-ditch effort to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces charges of rape and sexual molestation. The world-famous secret-spiller is relatively chummy with Ecuador's leftist, anti-U.S. president Rafael Correa, and the South American government is reportedly considering Assange's request. (The Ecuadorian newspaper El Comercio reported Wednesday that Assange would be granted asylum within hours.) But Assange's future remains uncertain, as Britain plans to arrest him for violating his bail terms if he emerges from the embassy. Is it wise for Ecuador to open its doors to Assange?
No. Assange is not a political refugee: Anyone has the right to request political asylum, says Kim Zetter at Wired. But Assange isn't seeking political asylum. He's accused of rape. Ecuador has promised to respect "the rules and principles of international law," but under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — which Ecuador voted for — you don't give asylum to people accused of non-political crimes. Ecuador should turn its back on Assange.
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But welcoming Assange helps Correa counter his critics: The Ecuadorean president is engaged in a battle with his country's media over his attempts to "gag broadcasters," says Harvey Morris at the International Herald Tribune. Rolling out the welcome mat for Assange — with whom he bonded during an interview on the WikiLeaks founder's Russia Today TV show — would let Correa counter his critics and present himself as a champion of open information and the truth. In that light, it's a smart move.
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And it helps Ecuador tweak the U.S.: Assange claims that the charges against him were trumped up, says Josh Gerstein at Politico, as part of a larger scheme to eventually extradite him to the U.S., which he fears might execute him for exposing secret U.S. documents. Correa, for his part, "is a left-wing leader who's been at odds with the U.S." And for better or worse, welcoming someone who accuses the U.S. government of trying to kill him for revealing its secrets is one way to thumb your nose at Washington.
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