Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Christine Assange Meets Ecuador's Foreign Minister

In the Ecuadorian capital of Quito today, Christine Assange struggled to hold back tears after a meeting with Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador's Minister for Foreign Relations, Business and Integration.

While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains trapped in Ecuador's London embassy, his mother has flown to the small South American capitol to provide additional information on his request for political asylum, and make a personal plea for assistance.

At a press conference following today's meeting, Christine Assange thanked the Foreign Minister and the government of Ecuador "for paying attention to the information I have given, which is more than my own government will do."

Mrs Assange claimed the Australian government has abandoned her son, and reiterated her fears for his safety if he is extradited to the USA. She explained how the US Grand Jury process worked, and cited the treatment of Bradley Manning as an example of what her son could expect. She told local media that the current situation is not just about WikiLeaks, but also about justice and the future of press freedom.

The meeting was briefly halted when Mrs Assange was overcome with emotion, after beginning to explain to a reporter why she preferred to focus on the facts of the case rather than her own experiences.

According to Ecuador's El Telegrafo newspaper, Mrs Assange revealed that her phones are tapped, her 21-year-old grandson has had death threats, her father is dying and might not be able to see Julian before he dies, and the family is suffering symptoms of chronic stress.

Mrs Assange earlier said she was "terrified" by the thought of US extradition and that her son was "under extreme psychological stress" while confined to the Ecuadorian embassy.

"He is freedom-loving. He cannot run. He cannot go outside to see the sky. Outside, the UK police wait like dogs to take him."

"I am not here to demand asylum," she said. "I come to humbly ask, as his mother."

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said he was "very surprised" by the information he had received from Mrs Assange, including details of processes "that could be underway in America" and alleged torture of Australian citizens in Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Patiño also revealed that the Ecuadorian embassy in Sweden has asked the Swedish government to come to London if they want to question the WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief. As a gesture of respect to Britain, no decision on asylum is expected before the Olympic Games finish on August 12th.

"Ecuador continues its thorough analysis of this case in order to take an informed decision. Our decision will seek not to endanger the life of a human being," Patiño said.

"I am sure the president and his aides will make the best decision in this case," said Mrs Assange. She is scheduled to meet with President Rafael Correa before departing Ecuador on August 4th.

You can see video of Mrs Assange's press conference with Mr Patiño here.

Note: Reports that Christine said that Julian Assange's Australian passport has been cancelled appear to be due to bad translations. The 41-year-old's passport was confiscated by UK police when he was arrested two years ago.

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