Julian Assange: Ecuador grants Wikileaks founder asylum

 
Julian Assange Julian Assange's Wikileaks website published leaked diplomatic cables

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Ecuador has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in its London embassy while fighting extradition from the UK.

It said his human rights might be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over sex assault claims.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK would not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the country and the move was also criticised by Stockholm.

Ecuador said it would seek to negotiate arrangements for Mr Assange to leave.

"We don't think it is reasonable that, after a sovereign government has made the decision of granting political asylum, a citizen is forced to live in an embassy for a long period," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said.

Mr Assange took refuge at the embassy in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over assault and rape claims, which he denies.

Mr Patino had accused the UK of making an "open threat" to enter its embassy to arrest Mr Assange, an Australian national.

Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino: "We believe that his fears are legitimate"

Mr Assange said being granted political asylum by Ecuador was a "significant victory" and thanked staff in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

However, as the Foreign Office insisted the decision would not affect the UK's legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden, Mr Assange warned: "Things will get more stressful now."

"It was not Britain or my home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American nation," said Mr Assange, who watched the announcement with embassy staff in a live link to a press conference in Quito.

"While today is a historic victory, our struggles have just begun. The unprecedented US investigation against Wikileaks must be stopped.

Political asylum is not available to anyone facing a serious non-political crime - such as the allegations levelled against Mr Assange.

But does his new status mean he can now leave his Swedish problems behind? No. Asylum does not equal immunity from prosecution - and Julian Assange needs safe passage through UK territory that he won't get.

Mr Assange knows he can't leave without risking arrest by officers waiting outside. The police can't enter the embassy unless the government revokes its status.

Embassy vehicles are protected by law from police searches - but how could he get into an Ecuadorean car without being apprehended? And what happens after he's in the car? At some point he will have to get out again. Stranger things have happened.

In 1984 there was an attempt to smuggle a Nigerian man from the UK in a so-called "diplomatic bag" protected from inspection. The bag was in fact a large crate - and customs officers successfully intercepted it at the airport.

"While today much of the focus will be on the decision of the Ecuadorean government, it is just as important that we remember Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for over 800 days," he said, referring to the former US soldier accused of leaking government material to Wikileaks.

Mr Assange is expected to make a statement in front of the embassy on Sunday at 14:00 BST, according to the Wikileaks Twitter feed.

'Legal obligation'

Announcing Ecuador's decision, Mr Patino launched a strong attack on the UK for what he said was an "explicit type of blackmail".

The UK Foreign Office had warned, in a note, that it could lift the embassy's diplomatic status to fulfil a "legal obligation" to extradite the 41-year-old by using the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.

That allows the UK to revoke the diplomatic status of an embassy on UK soil, which would potentially allow police to enter the building to arrest Mr Assange for breaching the terms of his bail.

Mr Hague said it was a "matter of regret" that the Ecuadorean government decided to grant Mr Assange political asylum but warned that it "does not change the fundamentals" of the case.

He also warned that it could drag on for some "considerable" time.

"We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so," he said.

Scuffles broke out outside the Ecuadorean embassy

Mr Hague said there was "no threat" to storm the embassy.

"We are talking about an Act of Parliament in this country which stresses that it must be used in full conformity with international law," he said.

Mr Patino said Ecuador believed Mr Assange's fears of political persecution were "legitimate" and said his country was being loyal to its tradition of protecting those who were vulnerable.

He later told BBC Mundo that conditions were attached to the asylum.

"We placed the same type of conditions that are the norm in international relations, such as him [Mr Assange] not making political statements that could affect our relations with friendly countries."

The Foreign Office said it was "disappointed" by the Ecuador statement and said it remained committed to reaching a "negotiated solution" that would allow it to carry out its "obligations under the Extradition Act". This means Mr Assange's arrest would still be sought if he left the embassy.

Sweden summons ambassador

The Swedish government reacted angrily to Mr Patino's suggestion that Mr Assange would not be treated fairly by its justice system, summoning Ecuador's ambassador to explain.

At the scene

Julian Assange's small, but vocal, band of supporters chanted loudly and marched along the street in front of the Ecuadorean Embassy when the news filtered through from Quito.

They, like the man they have come here to support, regard Ecuador's decision as a significant victory against the UK, US and Sweden, all of which they claim are trying to silence Mr Assange.

But Mr Assange's supporters also know there's little chance of the man they regard as a hero of free speech making a public appearance on the pavement opposite the world-famous green awnings of the Harrods department store.

He would very likely be arrested if he stepped outside the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he is - for the moment at least - still protected by the diplomatic immunity granted to foreign government buildings on UK soil.

Mr Assange is locked in a diplomatic and political stalemate. Ecuador may have granted him asylum, but he still has nowhere to go.

"The accusations... are serious, and it is unacceptable that Ecuador would want to halt the Swedish judicial process and European judicial co-operation," said Anders Joerle, spokesman for the Swedish foreign ministry.

The Organisation of American States called a special meeting at its Washington headquarters on Thursday to discuss the Ecuador-UK relationship, specifically Ecuador's diplomatic premises in the UK.

The Union of South American Nations, meanwhile, has convened an "extraordinary meeting" in Ecuador on Sunday to consider "the situation raised at the embassy".

Mr Assange entered the embassy after the UK's Supreme Court dismissed his bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start.

It was during that fortnight, while on bail, that he sought refuge.

A subsequent offer by Ecuador to allow Swedish investigators to interview Mr Assange inside the embassy was rejected.

The Wikileaks website Mr Assange founded published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments, particularly that of the US, in 2010.

Mr Assange says he fears that if extradited to Sweden, he will then be passed on to the American authorities.

In 2010, two female Wikileaks supporters accused Mr Assange of committing sexual offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture.

Mr Assange claims the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1138.

    The fact that this man has not been charged with any crime is being ignored.
    Some might say you can’t go around letting government confidential information go public just like the Daily Telegraph did about the expenses behavior of the British MPs and members of the House of Lords & Ladies.
    Without 'public' whistleblowers, the world would become a marxist hell ... maybe its time to get real.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1137.

    heres another link
    https://network23.org/ukfowl/files/2012/05/CA-talking-point-flyer.pdf
    https://network23.org/ukfowl/files/2012/05/CA-talking-point-flyer.pdf
    And another, try to read it all
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/17/julian-assange-sweden
    I’m not trying to say that there is no case to answer but it is complicated, why can’t the Swedes guarantee no extradition to the US.

  • Comment number 1136.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1135.

    Ecuador is very foolish to grant asylum to this man, who has shown his complete disrespect for every kind of law and now demands special treatment for himself.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 1134.

    Maggiethefacist @ 894
    Typical of people like you and suppoters of this man misguided and misinformed.
    why should Sweden an honourable and sovereign country bow to demands from Asange lawyer?
    We the people demand to know the truth for which he is accused..
    Funny as the champion of truth he sure knows how to evade being in a position to divulge said...

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1133.

    Ecuador has shown character in a democratic process. The days of bullying are perhaps over and I applaud all activists out there volunteering to clean up the lies that have come to mar our governments in recent years. Sweden and the UK are telling us that they will do anything for the USA, even if it came to surrendering their democracy. Ecuador is obviously a standout in this process.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1132.

    How dare the UK lecture anyone on human rights! Our recent record in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and, now our action in this case, only illustrates to the world what pathetic, hypocrical lapdogs and incompetants govern this once great nation, turning us into the laughing stock of the world!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1131.

    The all out war against assange and wikileaks is shameless.
    They do not attempt to hide or subvert as most people arent that bothered about it. Blocking payments to wikileaks and causing bankruptcy, 'alleged sex attacks' with no charges pending, extradition to the US where the openly talk about the death penalty????
    I believe we are past the point of no return, WW3 around the corner perhaps?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1130.

    @1098. p_fuel13
    2 MINUTES AGO
    If Assange really wants to make a difference maybe he should freely go to Sweden and hope that he's extradited. The international outrage would be phenomenal!
    ..

    Yes, but there's also a very real risk that if he wasn't taken out beforehand, he'd be executed anyway.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1129.

    @1091
    I think you'll find there have been NO charges made against him - the Swedish Prosecutors want to interview him. Ecuador offered to let them do this in their Embassy and they refused
    How an extradition can be approved in the first place, when no charges have been brought, is anyones guess

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1128.

    The assetrtion that Assange is a coward is clearly ridiculous, and it actually shows up that the real cowards are the US and UK governments. They are even to cowardly to let other countries see what they are saying and doing to them! He is a brave man, much braver than me to stand up to the disgusting tyrants, who grovel around rogue states, and care nothing for their own countries or people.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1127.

    1102.mayfair69
    Since Assange faces possible charges of spying in time of war against the USA I expect seal team 6 to have him dead by end of week.
    ---
    and then I expect Seal Team 6 to die in a helecopter crash shortly after Assange's body is buried at sea...

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1126.

    "It's for a sovereign state to decide to whom it gives asylum, and to decide if there's a case, not the land in which it has an embassy."
    Provided people are granted asylum to protect them from persecution, not from criminal prosecurion.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1125.

    Mr. Assange is afraid of Swedish justice system - really?? For crying out loud Sweden is not some third world country with jungle justice system. If he is fearful he will not get a fair trial in Sweden of all places, then he has something to hide.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1124.

    bill

    your spot on, its like that older gentleman who sold batteries to an iranin company thats why the americans wanted him sent over and the uk bowed to presure but its ok for america to give arms to other countries to fight there battles for them, I wouldnt trust an american on how far I could throw them

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1123.

    Whoa whoa.. what's going on here? This person is (or should I was was) going to be extradited to Sweden, not the United States. Since when is Sweden a puppet of the United States?

    Besides, the UK Govt never threatened to storm the embassy, they merely said they could if need be.. the media love to create big headlines out of people's gullibility!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1122.

    "libertyandfreedom
    If this is only about rape accusations, then why can't they guarantee that he will be safe from extradition to the US?"

    Because they cannot predict whether the US will bring an extradition case and under what terms. It may fully satisfy Swedish law and the ECHR and Sweden would then have no cause to refuse it. Sweden is being asked to commit a hypothetical situation.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1121.

    I can't wait to see Mr Assange sent off to Sweden. The sooner we're rid off him and his paranoid supporters the better.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1120.

    WELL DONE TO EQUADORIAN GOVERNMENT!!

    At least we know they are not US puppet, the guy has been accused with two women. No rape occured, just few drinks and having sex with them in different time. I have done that and most of us have done that..so what's the fuss? They just want to send him to Sweden then the Swedish will sell him to US. Most of these Europeans still serving their master US.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1119.

    See how far human rights matter when it is the interests of the ruling elite (who can't handle the truth, as disclosed by Wikileaks) that are being restricted? They matter not one bit. It is transparently obvious that the Swedes have been told to get Assange by the american military establishment. UK law protects Hamza, deports Assange. Given a lesson in human rights by Ecuador? Yes, we truly are.

 

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