The British Ambassador in Quito lodged a formal protest to the Ecuadorian government Thursday over the country’s continued harboring of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Foreign Office officials confirm.
Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, saying he was afraid his extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges would be followed by further extradition to the U.S. to stand trial for leaking classified and sensitive documents through his organization. He has been living at the embassy since then.
“Ecuador must recognize that its decision to harbor Mr. Assange more than three years ago has prevented the proper course of justice,” Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire told the BBC before the written complaint was delivered in Quito. The issue is both a moral and a financial one: U.K. officials estimate that the cost of policing the area around the London embassy is nearing $19 million.
Swedish authorities were forced to drop two allegations of sexual assault this week due to that country’s statute of limitations policy. Under Swedish law, an individual may not be charged until he or she has been questioned by authorities, an action that investigators say has been made impossible by Assange’s stay at the Embassy. He still faces a more serious allegation of rape, on which the statute of limitations will not run out until 2020.
“I am an innocent man. I haven’t even been charged,” Assange told the BBC. “From the beginning I offered simple solutions. Come to the embassy to take my statement or promise not to send me to the United States. This Swedish official refused both. She even refused a written statement.”
Sweden’s director of public prosecution told the BBC that authorities had submitted a request to interview Assange inside the embassy as he suggested but had not received permission.