Thursday, August 16, 2012

Confirmed: Ecuador grants Julian Assange asylum in dramatic standoff

Confirmed: Ecuador grants Julian Assange asylum in dramatic standoff: Ecuador has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The decision comes almost two months after the world-famous whistleblower came to the country’s embassy in London seeking protection.

“We have decided to grant political asylum to Mr. Assange,” said Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. “We believe that his fears are legitimate and there are the threats that he could face political persecution.”

The announcement was met with celebrations outside the Ecuadorian embassy as the WikiLeaks founder's supporters began chanting "Hands off Ecuador" and "Assange freedom fighter."

Patino admitted that Julian Assange’s rights are endangered, as he is at high risk of extradition from Sweden to the US. Moreover, Assange’s home country will not provide him with adequate legal protection, he said.

“We think [Assange’s] extradition is viable to a country outside the EU,” Patino said at a press conference at the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry. “If this happens, he will not get a fair trial and his rights won’t be respected. Most probably he will face a military court in the US.”

”Ecuador has confirmed Assange does not have enough protection from Australia where he holds citizenship,” Patino said.

Patino also reiterated Ecuador's offer to allow Sweden to interview Assange in their embassy in London, which was turned down. Stockholm would neither guarantee that the WikiLeaks founder would not be extradited again once he is on Swedish soil.

“We trust that that the UK will offer as soon as possible the guarantee for the safe passage of asylum for Mr Assange and they will respect those international agreements they have signed in the past,” he concluded.

The UK Foreign Office says it is “disappointed” with Ecuador's decision, but says it does not affect Britain's legal obligation to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to Sweden.

"We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act," read the FCO's Twitter following Patino's statement. "Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal UK authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation."

Earlier in the day, the British government has stated is has absolutely no intention of letting Assange reach the South American country. The UK said that it will do everything in its power to block Assange’s passage to Ecuador.

UK authorities sparked a scandal when they announced they were prepared to raid the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to apprehend Assange, effectively revoking the embassy’s diplomatic immunity.

In the first part of his speech, Ricardo Patino extensively reprimanded the approach saying that such an act would be interpreted as “hostile and intolerable,” and an attack on Ecuador’s sovereignty that would provoke a dramatic diplomatic response.

""I will hit you hard, but if you behave I might not," the Ecuadorian foreign minister said reminding that UN and Vienna Conventions prohibit violating diplomatic space.


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