QUITO (Reuters) - Julian Assange’s mother said she handed evidence to Ecuador’s government on Monday indicating Washington is bent on extraditing her son to the United States, where she fears the WikiLeaks founder could face execution.
Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London for nearly six weeks as he awaits a decision on his asylum request by the leftist government of Rafael Correa.
The Australian anti-secrecy campaigner, who antagonized Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published secret U.S. diplomatic cables, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex crime allegations. He fears that if he is sent to Sweden he could be bundled off to the United States.
At a news conference after a meeting with Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, Christine Assange did not say exactly what evidence she had provided to substantiate her fears.
She said she had made the case for her son’s asylum request and relayed her fears that the former computer hacker could face torture and even execution if deported to the United States.
“As a mother I’m terrified for what would happen to my son if he’s extradited to the United States,” she said, fighting back tears as she held pictures of her son as a toddler.
Christine Assange said she fears her 41-year-old son will not receive fair treatment in Sweden. Her biggest concern, she said, is that Sweden will extradite him to the United States.
“He’ll then go to the United States, where he’ll be possibly executed or perhaps tortured in a prison and will not face a hearing as we’ve seen with Bradley Manning,” she said, referring to the U.S. intelligence analyst charged with leaking classified government cables to WikiLeaks.
Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said that, out of respect for the United Kingdom, his government will await the end of the Olympic games in London to announce a decision on Assange’s asylum application.
“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,” Patino said.
Neither U.S. nor Swedish authorities have charged Assange with anything. Swedish prosecutors want to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two WikiLeaks supporters in 2010.
Assange, whose distinctive platinum hair and high-flying friends have made him a global celebrity, says he had consensual sex with the women.
Patino said Ecuador’s ambassador in Sweden told Swedish authorities they are welcome to question Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, which could give Assange a chance to fight the allegations without going to Sweden.
Earlier on Monday, Christine Assange said the WikiLeaks founder is under extreme psychological stress and feels his only option is to seek safety in Ecuador.
“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. ... He cannot exercise the way he normally could and he’s under extreme psychological stress,” Christine Assange said in a live interview with local television.
Christine Assange is due to meet with Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa later this week. She described the socialist leader as “very brave” and said she trusts that Correa will not allow his country’s sovereignty to be manipulated by foreign interests.
Both Correa and Julian Assange have alienated Washington. Correa is an ardent critic of what he calls U.S. “imperialism,” and U.S. authorities accuse Assange of damaging its foreign relations with his leaks.
Editing by Vicki Allen and Todd Eastham