Ecuador may well grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s request for political asylum, analysts say, in a bid by President Rafael Correa to needle the United States and boost his image at home.
The 40-year-old Assange turned up Tuesday at Ecuador’s embassy in London, seeking asylum after Britain’s Supreme Court turned down a last ditch appeal of his extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
Offering shelter to a high-profile figure like Assange — hailed as a whistleblower by his supporters — could help Correa push back against critics who accuse the leftist leader of clamping down on press freedom.
“Ecuador is a country which defends the right to life. We have to see whether there is a threat to Julian Assange’s life,” Correa told AFP on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit in Brazil.
“We have to assess whether he was accorded due process. Ecuador is a country which rejects persecution on ideological grounds,” he said.
Correa added that Assange’s asylum request was the “best answer” to those who say there is no freedom of expression in Ecuador. Ecuador’s government, which has often been at odds with the US, had offered Assange residency in 2010 in support of WikiLeaks’s disclosure of classified US documents.