June 21, 2012 – 1:59PM
Julian Assange wants to continue his WikiLeaks work in Ecuador, according to a letter he sent to the country’s president.
Assange has spent a second night in Ecuador’s London embassy as the South American nation decides on his political asylum request.
President Rafael Correa said the country would take its time making a decision “because this is a very serious matter”.
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In a an interview with Venezuela’s Telesur network in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday (Thursday AEST), Correa said Assange made it clear in his letter requesting asylum that “he wants to continue his mission in a country … without limits, to reveal the truth, in a place of peace dedicated to truth and justice”.
The president said the letter had “impressed” him.
In London, British police waited outside the embassy a few doors down from the Harrods department story poised to arrest the 40-year-old Australian should he try to leave.
Assange entered the building to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex crimes. He was also concerned that he could be sent to the US to face charges related to the release of secret documents.
British police said Assange had violated the terms of his bail and was subject to arrest.
He was beyond their grasp, however, as long as he remained in the embassy, which was considered Ecuadorean territory.
Ecuadorean ambassador Anna Alban said she had had “cordial and constructive” discussions with British officials on Wednesday.
Correa was asked in the Telesur interview if he was not worried about hurting relations with Britain. He responded with a characteristic dig at the United States.
“If relations with England are affected by an exile request, relations with the United States of America will be super affected because all the corrupt from Ecuador” have sought asylum there.
Correa has praised Wikileaks for exposing US secrets and thus strengthening him politically against a country whose influence he has sought to diminish in Latin America.
One document published by Wikileaks prompted Correa to expel a US ambassador in 2010 for alleging a former Ecuadorean police chief was corrupt and suggesting Correa had looked the other way.
He told the interviewer he did not know Assange personally but said there was “empathy” when Assange interviewed him last month on the Russian television program he regularly hosts.
Correa mentioned on Wednesday that Ecuador’s constitution prohibits the death penalty, an apparent allusion to fears he could face it in the United States if not granted asylum.
Alex Carlile, a senior British lawyer, said even if Ecuador granted him asylum Assange could find leaving Britain all but impossible.
“It’s inconceivable that the UK government would give him safe passage” to an airport, Carlile said. “Even if he was in a diplomatic vehicle driving out the back door, that vehicle would be stopped and he would be extracted from it.”
On Wednesday Gavin Macfadyen of the centre for investigative journalism at London’s City University emerged from the embassy to say that Assange was meeting his lawyers and was “in very good humour”.
Some found Ecuador a strange choice of refuge for a free-speech advocate. Correa’s government has been criticised for using Ecuador’s criminal libel law in sympathetic courts against journalists.
The asylum bid took many Assange supporters by surprise – including some of those who put up STG200,000 ($A310,000) to guarantee his bail.
Vaughan Smith, a former journalist who let Assange stay at his rural English home for more than a year as part of his bail terms, said the news “came as surprise”.
Smith said he stood to lose his STG20,000 surety, but defended Assange nonetheless.
“This is money my family needs,” Smith said. “But my family don’t believe they are facing life imprisonment or death.”
© 2012 AP