Ecuador Grants Asylum to Assange
by VOA News August 16, 2012
Ecuador has granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, intensifying a political dispute involving Ecuador, Britain and Sweden.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced the decision Thursday in Quito, saying Assange's personal security was at risk. He said Assange would not receive a fair trial if he is eventually extradited to the U.S.
Britain Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain will not give Assange safe passage out of Britain and is determined to extradite him to Sweden.
Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning in connection with sexual assault allegations. He has denied those accusations.
Following the decision, Sweden summoned Ecuador's Stockholm-based ambassador. A Swedish government spokesman said it is "unacceptable" that Ecuador is trying to halt Sweden's judicial process.
One of Assange's lawyers urged a Swedish prosecutor to come to London to interrogate the WikiLeaks founder, saying it is no longer possible to question him in Sweden because he has been granted asylum.
Assange took refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London nearly two months ago after losing a legal battle to fight extradition to Sweden.
Outside the Ecuadorian embassy Thursday, British police tussled with protesters chanting slogans in support of Assange. At least three protesters were arrested.
Ecuadorian officials have accused Britain of threatening to storm Ecuador's embassy to arrest Assange. Britain has warned of using a law that would allow it to revoke the embassy's diplomatic status.
Assange fears Sweden could send him to the United States to face possible charges related to the 2010 release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including diplomatic cables held by the U.S. State Department about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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