UK denies Assange diplomatic status after Ecuador request

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Britain's Foreign Office said Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 it has rejected Ecuador's request to grant diplomatic status to Assange. (AP)
Updated 11 January 2018

UK denies Assange diplomatic status after Ecuador request

LONDON: Britain said on Thursday it has denied a request by Ecuador to issue diplomatic status to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in the country’s London embassy since 2012.
“The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr.Assange here in the UK. The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter,” the British foreign ministry said in a statement.
Ecuador’s attempt to obtain diplomatic status for the 46-year-old comes as part of the country’s broader efforts to resolve the case of their long-term lodger, who moved into the embassy to avoid arrest over a Swedish probe into rape allegations.
Sweden dropped their investigation over the 2010 allegations last year, but British police have said they are still seeking to arrest him for failing to surrender to a court after violating bail terms.
“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” Britain’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
Assange has refused to step outside the embassy and claimed he fears being extradited to the United States, for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said on Tuesday her government is looking at the possibility of a “third country or a personality” stepping in to resolve the stand-off.
“No solution will be achieved without international cooperation and the cooperation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out,” Espinosa told foreign correspondents in Quito.
On Wednesday the Ecuadorian foreign ministry refused to comment on media reports that Assange, an Australian national, has been granted citizenship by the South American country.


Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

A woman holds a sign during a protest against the execution of Rodney Reed on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in Bastrop, Texas. (AP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Texas court halts execution in high-profile case

  • Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed

WASHINGTON: A Texas appeals court has suspended the execution of convicted murderer Rodney Reed — who has long claimed his innocence — in a case that has attracted widespread public attention and a celebrity-backed campaign.
Reed, a 51-year-old African-American, was sentenced to death in 1998 after being convicted by an all-white jury of the rape and murder of Stacey Stites, a 19-year-old white woman.
His execution by lethal injection had been set for November 20, but Reed says he did not commit the crime, and his lawyers and supporters say that evidence proves he is innocent.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles announced on Friday that it had “voted unanimously to recommend the governor grant a 120-day reprieve” to Reed, who had appealed for clemency.
The state appeals court then halted the execution later in the evening.
Millions of people, including US lawmakers and Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Susan Sarandon, have signed petitions supporting Reed.
Kardashian said on social media she was with Reed when he received news about the reprieve.
Although traces of Reed’s DNA were found in the victim, he has always maintained that he and Stites were secretly having an affair.
Reed’s lawyers say that evidence obtained after the trial points to another suspect — the victim’s fiance, Jimmy Fennell, a former policeman who later served a 10-year prison sentence for another rape.
“The strong evidence exonerating Mr.Reed and implicating Fennell continues to mount,” the lawyers wrote in the clemency petition lodged with the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
In the clemency request, they included a testimonial from a former co-worker of the victim who confirmed the affair.
According to another affidavit, a former prison inmate said he heard Fennell brag during a prison yard conversation about committing the murder.
Fennell has denied involvement in Stites’ murder.
The Texas board declined Reed’s request to downgrade his sentence.
His lawyers also have filed a petition with the US Supreme Court, seeking a stay of execution.