Julian Assange Ecuador embassy
© GettyJulian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in May 2017.
Rafael Correa granted the WikiLeaks co-founder asylum in the country's embassy in London in 2012

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange should never have been jailed in the first place, former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has told RT in an exclusive interview.

Correa, who granted Assange asylum in his country's embassy in London in 2012, spoke to RT shortly after the news broke that the Australian had been released from prison in the UK as part of a plea deal with the US Justice Department.

"Julian Assange is persecuted for telling the truth, not for lying. And he is the truth teller, the persecuted, the punished, the one buried alive in a prison, when the ones in prison should have been the war criminals," Correa said.

rafael correa
© RT/ScreencapFormer President of Ecuador Raphael Correa
In 2010, WikiLeaks released footage of a US military helicopter gunning down civilians in Baghdad three years previously, after mistaking them for armed insurgents. The attack resulted in 12 civilians being killed, including two children and two people working for the Reuters news agency. The video was part of a wider release of top-secret files by WikiLeaks, including documents connected to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From 2011 to 2019, Assange took sanctuary inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London due to fear of extradition to the US. When Ecuador's next president, Lenin Moreno, revoked his asylum status, Assange was ejected from the embassy and arrested by British police. He then spent five years at the Belmarsh maximum-security prison in London.

Correa said he is "happy" that Assange has been released, but insisted he should have never been targeted in the first place.

"The real war criminals went unpunished," Correa said. "He [Assange] should never have lost his freedom. On the contrary, he should have been recognized for his courage."

Watch the full interview below: