Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño confirmed Friday that his country granted the request submitted by Swedish authorities to interrogate Julian Assange in London, which could possibly result in the dropping of any future criminal charges against him.
“Before (the Sweedish authorities) file three of the possible trials, they asked to go to the Ecuadorean embassy in London in order to collect his declarations,” said the state official in an interview with Radio Publica.
“Julian Assange benefits from our protection for being exiled, and remains under the Ecuadorean juridiction.”
Patiño explained that the procedure was the result of a two-month negotiation between the whistleblower and Swedish authorities.
“There is an international agreement of criminal cooperation and we have discussed this over the past two months, we had it endorsed by both parts, so now they can request an interrogation, as they have already done,” he added.
For instance, the Swedish prosecutor could hand questions to their Ecuadorean counterpart, and the interrogation would be carried out with the presence of a Swedish attorney, he said.
Once Assange's declarations are collected, Swedish authorities will be able to decide whether to proceded with criminal charges against Assange or not, meaning Assange could be able to finally leave the embassy were he has been forced to stay in since June 19, 2012.
“We hope there won't be any issues with United Kingdom,” added Patiño, explaining Ecuador would then ask British authorities a letter of safe-passage, so Assange could head to the airport without fearing arrest. “Supposedly (Assange) should go straight to Ecuador, where he was granted asylum.”
Swedish prosecutors have not indicated yet when they plan to visit the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to question Assange.
They dropped their investigation of sexual assault last August when the five-year limitation on bringing charges expired, but a rape allegation still could be brought.
Assange has denied all allegations of sexual assault and rape, claiming they are fabricated and part of a smear campaign to facilitate his extradition to the United States to face trial for WikiLeaks whistleblowing.
Assange came into the public eye in 2010 when WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables, leaking classified information that exposed the full extent of U.S. military abuses committed in the Iraq and Afghanistan War.