Thursday, 16 August 2012

Ecuador Grants Asylum to WikiLeaks' Assange

Ecuador on Thursday granted political asylum to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced.
"The government of Ecuador decided to grant political asylum to Julian Assange following a request sent to the President," Patino said during a live televised broadcast in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.
Assange has been holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London for two months as he fights extradition to Sweden on sex crime charges, which he denies.
The announcement on Thursday comes a day after the British authorities threatened to deprive the embassy of diplomatic immunity, allowing them to enter its grounds and arrest Assange.
"Under British law we can give them a week's notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection," a Foreign Office spokesman said.
Ecuador said such an action would be "hostile and intolerable" and called on the Organization of American States and the Union of South American Nations to hold an emergency meeting over Britain's threat.
"If they thought that they would scare us, they're very wrong. They haven't scared us with these threats," Patino said in an interview with Latin American television channel TeleSur earlier on Thursday.
Announcing Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to Assange, Patino said the South American nation believed the WikiLeaks founder's fears of political persecution were "legitimate."
Assange, 41, described it as a "significant victory" but warned that "things will probably get more stressful now."

The Australian national took refuge at the embassy in June after the UK's Supreme Court dismissed his appeal against extradition.
He still faces arrest the minute he steps out of the building.
There was a heavy police presence outside the embassy in Knightsbridge, central London, as a few dozen pro-Assange supporters protested nearby.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Sir Tony Brenton, who served as Britain's ambassador to Russia between 2004 and 2008, said the Foreign Office was "highly unlikely" to carry out its threat to raid the Ecuadorean Embassy but that if it did, it life would become "impossible" for British diplomats overseas.
"The Government itself has no interest in creating a situation where it is possible for governments everywhere to arbitrarily cut off diplomatic immunity. It would be very bad," he said.
"If the Russians had had the power and simply walked into the embassy and simply arrested someone, we would have been in much more insecurity," he added.
The Foreign Office said it was "disappointed" by Foreign Minister Pation's statement and that it would not affect Britain's binding obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden.
"We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act," it said on its Twitter account.
The world's most famous whistleblower is suspected of sexual assault against two women that allegedly took place in August 2010. He claims the sex was consensual and the accusations against him are politically motivated.
British diplomats said "nothing will change in [Assange's] status" if he flees to Ecuador, and that the Foreign Office will continue pursuing him there.
Assange himself and his lawyers fear that extradition to Sweden could lead to further summons to the United States, where he could face a possible death sentence for espionage over his founding of the Wikileaks website.
But Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted that the country's "firm legal and constitutional system guarantees the rights of each and everyone."
"We firmly reject any accusations to the contrary," he wrote.
WikiLeaks' publication of U.S. diplomatic cables on November 29, 2010, containing forthright comments from U.S. diplomats about foreign leaders and events, caused an internet sensation and enraged U.S. officials. WikiLeaks previously published tens of thousands of documents about the actions of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Asian Defence News

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