Ecuador Grants Asylum To WikiLeaks' Assange
August 16, 2012
Ecuador has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino accused Britain of "threatening to assault" the country's embassy in London to apprehend Assange.
Patino said that Britain had warned it would "storm our embassy if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange."
The Ecuadorean foreign minister indicated his government took these alleged threats very seriously when he added that any raid on the embassy would be "hostile and intolerable [and] an attempt on our sovereignty which would oblige us to respond with the greatest diplomatic force."
Britain's Foreign Office said that giving Assange asylum "will not change anything" and that Britain has a legal duty to extradite him to Sweden.
Assange fled to the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in June and requested political asylum to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faces sexual-assault charges.
Assange says the Swedish charges against him are trumped up and fears he would be handed over to the United States, where he could face espionage charges for posting the U.S. diplomatic cables he obtained from U.S. soldier Bradley Manning.
Washington said WikiLeaks' decision to post the diplomatic cables damaged U.S. relations with a number of countries and compromised many U.S. officials and individuals in countries around the world who were helping Washington.
One example came from Ecuador, where a cable published by WikiLeaks prompted President Rafael Correa to expel the U.S. ambassador for alleging a former Ecuadorean police chief was corrupt and suggesting Correa knew it but had ignored the problem.
U.K.: 'Legal Obligation' To Extradite Assange
WikiLeaks claimed the Ecuadorean Embassy in London is currently surrounded by British police "in a menacing show of force."
The site also called for the resignation of British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
The whistle-blowing site said, "We remind the public that these extraordinary actions are being taken to detain a man who has not been charged with any crime in any country."
The Foreign Office says it can lift the embassy's diplomatic status to fulfill a "legal obligation" to extradite Assange to Sweden to face questioning there.
The statement prompted a protest by Ecuadorans outside the British Embassy in Quito who chanted, "We are not a monarchy, we exercise sovereignty!"
With reporting by AFP and AP
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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