He and his supporters say the charges are part of a plot to get him extradited to the US where, they say, he could face harsh penalties. The US has not made a formal extradition request for Assange, and it would be harder to secure his extradition from Sweden than it would be from the United Kingdom. Ecuador announced it would formally offer Assange asylum last Thursday.
The UK has refused to allow Assange safe passage out of the country, insisting it will arrest him as required under international and its own extradition treaties. Last week, after the UK warned Ecuador that it might withdraw the embassy's protected status to arrest Assange – who had violated the terms of his house arrest agreement when he fled to the embassy – both Ecuador and Assange ratcheted up tension in the standoff, implying the UK was planning on storming the embassy.
Many believe that Ecuador’s harboring of Assange is merely a ruse to boost Correa’s popularity in the run-up to elections next February and to deflect charges that he has severely restricted freedom of expression in Ecuador.
According to its own numbers, the Ecuadorian government has shut down 14 media outlets since the beginning of the year. In most of these instances the government claimed the stations had violated licensing laws and owed minimal fines, to which it responded by seizing all equipment and shutting them down without warning. When asked last night if this treatment was fair, President Correa responded, “Yes.”
“We believe in some way that the Ecuadorian government is using the figure of Mr. Assange, his celebrity, to repair the image of President Correa abroad,” said Diego Cornejo the director of the Ecuadorian Association of Newspaper Editors in an interview with the Spanish news agency Efe.
But amid the cries of hypocrisy about Ecuador’s press oppression comes the case of Alexander Barankov, a Belarusian former army captain, who is currently facing extradition back to his home country at Belarus’ request, despite Ecuador having granted him asylum two years ago after he exposed corruption in his homeland.