Ecuador wants a meeting with U.K. officials to discuss WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s declining health as four months in the South American nation’s embassy in London saps the anti-secrecy advocate’s strength.
Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said yesterday he is “concerned” Assange, who has been holed up in the country’s mission since June, is losing weight and wants the U.K. to guarantee the Australian citizen’s safe passage to a hospital if his medical condition worsens, according to a statement published in the president’s official gazette.
Britain has threatened to arrest Assange and extradite him to Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct, if he walks out of the embassy near the Harrods department store in London’s Knightsbridge district. Assange and Patino also want British and Swedish guarantees they won’t allow him to be turned over to the U.S., where they say he could face torture and execution.
Ecuador “is waiting for an official statement by the British government about what happens in the case of a medical emergency,” Patino said, according to the statement. “I want to know what happens if there is a complication in his health.”
Ecuador granted Assange, 41, diplomatic asylum in August saying he is the victim of political persecution for releasing thousands of U.S. classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.
The move set off a diplomatic spat with Britain which refuses to grant him safe passage out of the country.
The U.K. has said it has a “binding obligation” to send Assange to Sweden after he exhausted options in U.K. courts to avoid extradition.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service has orders to arrest him if he steps outside the building’s door. Assange hasn’t been charged with a crime.
Assange said last month that secret U.S. Air Force documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request show the U.S. has designated him as an “enemy.” The allegations against him became public around the same time he posted the leaked cables on the Internet.
A telephone message for U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, left after normal business hours, wasn’t immediately returned.
To contact the reporters on this story: Nathan Gill in Quito at firstname.lastname@example.org