A 'Fundamental Human Right': Ecuador Grants Assange Political Asylum

Ecuador on Thursday said it would grant political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the country's embassy in London for weeks now. Britain says it still intends to extradite the whistleblower to Sweden, where he faces questioning over allegations of sexual offenses.

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gather in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Zoom
AP

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gather in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

After months of house arrest in Britain as he awaited possible extradition to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offenses, politicians in Ecuador have said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to be granted political asylum in the South American country. The announcement came during a press conference by Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño in the capital city of Quito. The foreign minister described asylum as a "fundamental human right."

The decision comes in contradition to the stance taken by Britain, which has said it wants to extradite Assange to Sweden.

Assange has been residing at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since June 19 in order to prevent his extradition. Public prosecutors in Sweden want to question Assange about accusations that he sexually harassed two women during the summer of 2010 and also raped one of them. The Australian citizen has denied the allegations.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement sent over Twitter that it was "disappointed" by the decision in Quito. "Under the law, with Mr. Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, UK authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden." The British government said it would carry out its obligation and that the Ecuadorean decision would not change that. "We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act."

Britain Says It Will Still Detain Assange

Earlier, a Foreign Office official said the British government would not permit Assange to leave the country, even if Ecuador provided him with asylum. The official said Assange would be detained by British officials as soon as he left the embassy.

Assange is trying to avoid extradition to Sweden because, he has claimed, he fears the government there will in turn extradite him to the United States, where he could face charges relating to the WikiLeaks release of hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents, most originating from the Pentagon or the State Department. The documents, which were reported on by a group of prominent international media that included SPIEGEL, shed light on the US role in Afghanistan, Iraq and other global hot spots.

Ecuador : 'We Are Not a British Colony'

Patiño said Thursday he had received written notice from British officials that they would "assault" the embassy in London if Ecuador didn't hand Assange over. "We are not a British colony," he said. "Those times are passed." He said any storming of the embassy would be viewed as "hostile and intolerable and, as well, an attempt on our sovereignty which would oblige us to respond with the greatest diplomatic force." The British Foreign Office denied it had made any threats against Ecuador. In a statement, officials said: "Throughout this process we have drawn the Ecuadorians' attention to relevant provisions of our law."

The Ecuadorean foreign minister said that Assange could face a real threat of political persecution as well as the death penalty if he were extradited to the United States due to the publication of the WikiLeaks cables.

Scores of police were sent to provide reinforcement at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on Thursday as the decision was announced.

dsl -- with wires

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1. Sovereign desicion
lecx22 08/16/2012
The asylum granted to Mr Assange could be questionable. However, this decision has to be accepted as a sovereign act. UK cannot storm the Ecuadorian Embassy in London that will show great powers like UK can do whatever they want.
2. Freedom of thought, word and deed
Inglenda2 08/17/2012
The British public were told in England, during WW2, that British soldiers were risking their lives and health for freedom and democracy. One of the primary aims was to protect the right to freedom of speech! Despite all international agreements which are intended to guarantee such rights, many countries in Europe have governments which pass laws which contradicting the same. Germany is just one example, where laws against racism are often misused, to incriminate persons who not ready to accept laid down political forms of thought. Now can observed how in England itself, a government which – as did its Labour predecessor – also chooses to deny such guaranteed human rights, for political reasons. Following the death of Dr. Kelly (who pointed out that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction), it is quite understandable that Mr. Assange has reason to fear the revenge of countries, whose secret services do not stop at murder. It is therefore not unusual, to find British citizens who find it rather disgusting, that we are now in a position, where a third world country like Ecuador feels it necessary, to remind the United Kingdom of the international agreements, which that country has not only signed, but also helped to create.
3. Pay back for extraterritorial application of laws
oldone 08/19/2012
I think this is a deliberate way of paying back the US for extraterritorial application of its laws. Now that Standard chartered had to come down, Assamge is being resurrected and rehabilitated by the Brits. Just watch as they "finally" agree to extradite him with the condition of no re-extradition attached.
4. Asange's show helps hidding crimes against humanity carried-out by USA
titus_norberto 08/20/2012
Asange's show helps hiding crimes against humanity carried-out by USA in the Middle East at large. The global mass media apparatus shifted the main issue from state sponsored terrorism targeting civilians into two different ones: 1- rape allegations; and 2- a legal wrangling between Ecuador and the UK… By now people have lost the real meaning of Wikileaks, namely sowing proofs of crimes against humanity committed against civilians. With the Olympics finished, people’s interest has been shifted into a farcical competition between three nations (all of them will get at least a medal…) Ecuador, UK and Sweden; a truly “win-win” situation for all (including mass media). Same strategy has be utilized to defuse allegations about usage of chemical weapons (phosphorous) in Gaza (unprotected city especially when attacked from the air) by the Israeli air force by shifting the issue on the integrity of Judge Richard Goldstone (a Jewish South African judge chosen by the UN to perform an investigation on the Jewish state, a rather incompetent, not to say suspicious, decision on UN the very start). Hello world, let US go back to the main topic, both crimes against humanity conducted by sovereign nations recognized by the UN have not conducted trials on criminals under their jurisdiction taking advantage ona mass media spinning on tangentially related but irrelevant pseudo NEWS. Norberto
5. attacks were planned
nevermind 08/26/2012
Zitat von titus_norbertoAsange's show helps hiding crimes against humanity carried-out by USA in the Middle East at large. The global mass media apparatus shifted the main issue from state sponsored terrorism targeting civilians into two different ones: 1- rape allegations; and 2- a legal wrangling between Ecuador and the UK… By now people have lost the real meaning of Wikileaks, namely sowing proofs of crimes against humanity committed against civilians. With the Olympics finished, people’s interest has been shifted into a farcical competition between three nations (all of them will get at least a medal…) Ecuador, UK and Sweden; a truly “win-win” situation for all (including mass media). Same strategy has be utilized to defuse allegations about usage of chemical weapons (phosphorous) in Gaza (unprotected city especially when attacked from the air) by the Israeli air force by shifting the issue on the integrity of Judge Richard Goldstone (a Jewish South African judge chosen by the UN to perform an investigation on the Jewish state, a rather incompetent, not to say suspicious, decision on UN the very start). Hello world, let US go back to the main topic, both crimes against humanity conducted by sovereign nations recognized by the UN have not conducted trials on criminals under their jurisdiction taking advantage ona mass media spinning on tangentially related but irrelevant pseudo NEWS. Norberto
Thanks for this Titus Norberto, you are off course right, Its about US war crimes committed against civilians, not about legal wrangles. Since yesterday's William Hague clampdown, it is clear that 34 OAStates are supporting Ecuador's stance. It is to be expected that the Home secretary will now call back his murderous attack dogs, liberally spread amongst the protesters outside the embassy. http://darkernet.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/covert-police-unit-with-links-to-armed-ops-to-infiltrate-supporters- outside-ecuador-embassy/ Further Gavin Essler, of BBC's newsnight flagship indoctrination unit fame, should apologise for his derogatary remarks and shrioeking at ex ambassador Craig Murray for mentioning Anna Ardins name. It was the bbc that has named Ardin some 18 month ago. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/mundo/cartas_desde_cuba/2011/02/no_es_para_menos.html
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