Ecuador: All right, Julian, you CAN stay on our sofa - it's your human right
Minister and Wikileaker share cosy chat in tiny London flat
Julian Assange is in "good spirits" despite being stuck in Ecuador's London embassy for the past year, said the South American country's foreign minister.
Ricardo Patino met the Wikileaks website founder over the weekend and appeared on the balcony of the Knightsbridge apartment for a few comments with the press. The minister will meet UK Foreign Secretary William Hague today to discuss Assange's case.
Assange™ was granted political asylum by Ecuadorian president Rafael Correra last year. He has been hiding out in the London embassy ever since to avoid deportation to Sweden for questioning over sexual assault allegations.
The Wikileaker and his supporters maintain that the deportation to Sweden would be a mere pitstop on the way to the US, which is investigating his leaky website that published a huge wad of top-secret documents written by American diplomats.
Assange told reporters he was "immensely grateful" for Ecuador's support.
Patino added: "I was able to say face to face to him, for the first time, that the government of Ecuador remains firmly committed to protecting his human rights and that we continue to seek cast-iron assurances to avoid any onward extradition to a third state."
"During the meeting we were able to speak about the increasing threats against the freedom of people to communicate and to know the truth, threats which come from certain states that have put all of humanity under suspicion," he added, referencing recent revelations about the NSA's monitoring of phone and internet traffic.
Ana Alban, Ecuador's previous UK ambassador, was snubbed by Foreign Office minster Hugo Swire when, during a conversation about Assange, she asked him: "What are we going to do about the stone in the shoe?"
Swire reportedly responded: "Not my stone, not my shoe."
Ecuadorian sources claim Blighty's officials are happy to leave Assange in the embassy because, as he can't leave the building for fear of arrest and deportation, he is effectively imprisoned inside it.
Alban was recalled to Ecuador a fortnight ago, reportedly after failing to secure an end to Assange's prolonged occupation of the embassy. ®