After spending 56 days holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has finally received a favorable answer to his request for political asylum in the Latin American country.
The decision has been proclaimed today by Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño during a televised announcement, and seems to have been heavily influenced by Sweden’s refusal to guarantee that Assange won’t be extradited to the US if he gets extradited to Sweden, and by a communiquÃ© from the UK government.
“Today we’ve received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange,” Patiño told reporters yesterday.
“We have to reiterate that we consider continued use of diplomatic premises in this way, to be incompatible with the VCDR (Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations) and not sustainable, and that we have already made clear to you the serious implications for our diplomatic relations,” said the document in question.
“You should be aware that there is a legal basis in the U.K. the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act which would allow us to take action to arrest Mr. Assange in the current premises of the Embassy. We very much hope not to get this point, but if you cannot resolve the issue of Mr. Assange’s presence on your premises, this route is open to us.”
Following the Ecuadorian government’s decision, the UK Foreign Office has reiterated that their position remains the same as before, and that Britain will carry out its obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden, reports The Guardian.
The situation has now turned into a big diplomatic issue, and it’s hard to say what the UK’s or Ecuador’s next step will be. Even if Britain refrains from any drastic action, Assange is still fair game from the moment he leaves the embassy to that when he leaves the UK altogether.
Assange has lost his final extradition appeal in May as the Supreme Court in London decided that the Swedish Prosecuting Authority had the right to issue the extradition order.
As a reminder: Assange has still not been charged with any crime in Sweden, and he is currently wanted only for interrogation regarding rape allegations raised against him by two Swedish women.
According to the Ecuadorian ambassador, Swedish prosecutors have repeatedly refused to interview Assange on UK soil or at the embassy. Adding to this the extreme reaction by the UK Foreign Office, it is easy to see why Assange’s supporters claim that the two countries are only doing the US government’s bidding.