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Assange Standoff: Ecuador's Response

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ANKEBORG (Rixstep) — After yesterday evening's magnificently duckish confusion in the matter of the interrogation of Julian Assange in London, the government of Ecuador felt compelled to respond.

Swedish morning rag DN.se today received a missive from Mario Guerrero Murgueytio, the Ecuador ambassador in town.

DN.se will evidently not publish the actual letter, only select bits and pieces, but the gist is the following.

  • The Swedish system cannot treat the Assange case the same as any other case, at least not in this regard, because it's simply not the same as any other case.
  • Sweden must remember that Julian Assange is under the protection of the Republic of Ecuador.
  • The Swedes waited much too long to apply for Mutual Legal Assistance - it wasn't until 12 June that Ecuador received their submission.

'Given these circumstances, it is inappropriate for the Swedish prosecution authority to expect to be permitted to enter the Ecuador embassy in London without first receiving the relevant permit.'

(Ecuador had only five days to respond to an application that's taken the Swedes almost five years. Marianne Ny insisted on complete secrecy as to the date and time of the coming visit and questioning, yet she sent her assistant Ingrid Isgren to London 17 June without receiving a reply from Ecuador, and tabloid Expressen's photographer was on location to photograph the entire non-event, and Ny left for her holidays the day after. Expressen's photographer Kristofer Sandberg was seen loitering outside the embassy in Knightsbridge, and later told people there that he'd just had a twenty-minute phone conversation with Marianne Ny herself. See here; for the formal statement of Julian Assange, see here and here.)

Mario Guerrero Murgueytio also says that Sweden's immigration authority Migrationsverket has nothing to do with Assange's asylum status.

(This is harder to explain. Yesterday the story started to spread, boosted by Reuters, that Ecuador had demanded that Sweden first grant political asylum to Assange before interrogating him. What Ecuador actually did was demand that Sweden recognise Assange's asylum status, in accordance with an international treaty which Sweden signed years ago.)

Prosecutors & Phalaropes

The Swedes of course insist they were not tardy in their submission for Mutual Legal Assistance. Five days to respond to a submission that's taken five years should be enough, they seem to be saying. But Marianne Ny didn't wait for formal permission from Ecuador - she sent her assistant Ingrid Isgren anyway. More: she was also in contact with the Swedish tabloid Expressen; the photographer assigned by the latter was the only member of the media present that day, as Marianne Ny already told the media that the time and date would be kept secret.

Marianne Ny's submission was finalised on 29 May and sent to Sweden's Ministry for Foreign Affairs where it was translated by the 'BIRS' division. BIRS sent the translated application on to Ecuador on 12 June. Five days, as it would turn out, before Marianne Ny's assistant's 'surprise visit' to Knightsbridge. DN.se:

'The Prosecution Authority admitted it can be true that Ecuador received the submission on 12 June, after the MFA translated the submission. A prosecutor was on location 17-18 June in London, prepared to interrogate Assange if permission was granted.

'The Prosecution Authority claim those two days were OK with Assange and his attorneys.'

(No mention is made of the Republic of Ecuador, other than they might not be lying.)

Swedish Ministry for Justice spokesperson Cecilia Riddselius, who almost singlehandedly caused the mess yesterday, added the following.

'We have had informal contacts with the embassy and they knew we'd sent in our submission. Maybe there wasn't a lot of time, but there was some time! And this was something they welcomed and had long been waiting for! But it's true that the prosecutor did not wait for permission before embarking for London.'

(It should be noted that at least Marianne Ny was in a real hurry - her holidays began the day after.)

Ecuadorean Reaction & Riddselius Again

Ecuador's minister for foreign affairs Ricardo Patiño wasn't pleased (to put it mildly).

'I do not find it acceptable that, having finally decided to answer the calls after all these years to continue the case, they'd expect the role of Ecuador to be limited to opening the doors of our embassy.'

The Riddselius response.

'But Ecuador always said they'd welcome an interrogation in London in order to let Julian Assange give his version of events! Yet now when we finally agree to do that, they're suddenly making unreasonable demands!'

(Such as needing more than five days to process a submission after waiting for it for five years?)

Close It All Down?

Sweden's prosecution authority will soon decide if there's any point in keeping any part of the Assange case open, something Assange attorney Thomas Olsson predicted earlier this week that they'd be forced to consider after all these cockups.

Five years - it's a wonder they made it this long.

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