Bienvenido Brother Julian
BBC | AUGUST 16, 2012
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 there were fears Mr Assange’s human rights might be violated.
Foreign minister Ricardo Patino accused the UK of making an “open threat” to enter its embassy to arrest Mr Assange.
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.
The Australian national said being granted political asylum by Ecuador was a “significant victory” and thanked staff in the Ecuadorian 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.”
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.
Ecuador’s foreign minister said: “We can’t allow spokespeople from the UK to gleefully say they have been honest when they have threatened us in such a way.”
He referred to the UK’s note as an “open threat” and accused the UK of “basically saying we will beat you savagely if you don’t behave”.
Mr Patino said Ecuador believed Mr Assange’s fears of political persecution were “legitimate”.
He said the country was being loyal to its tradition of protecting those who were vulnerable.
“We trust that our friendship with the United Kingdom will remain intact,” he added.
The announcement was watched live by Mr Assange and embassy staff in a link to a press conference from Quito.
The Foreign Office said it was “disappointed” by the statement issued by Ecuador’s foreign minister.