Britain Threatens To Storm Ecuador Embassy To Seize Assange
Xinhua News Agency
August 16, 2012
Britain threatens to storm Ecuadorian embassy to arrest Assange
LONDON: British Foreign Office said on Thursday the country will try to fulfill its “obligation” to extradite Julian Assange, in response to a protest made by the Ecuadorian foreign minister against Britain’s “threat” to storm its embassy in London.
The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino held a news conference in Quito on Wednesday, after receiving a letter from the British government.
“Today we received from the United Kingdom the express threat, in writing, that they could assault our embassy in London if Ecuador didn’t hand over Julian Assange. We want to make this absolutely clear. We are not a colony of Britain,” he said.
The British Foreign Office, for its part, posted a short statement through its social networking account on Thursday morning, without denying the “threat.”
“We have consistently made our position clear in our discussions with the government of Ecuador. UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences,” The Foreign Office said.
“Throughout this process we have drawn the Ecuadorians’ attention to relevant provisions of our law. For example, extensive human rights safeguards in our extradition procedures, or to legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK,” it said, adding “We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution.”
The Ecuadorian government will announce its decision about Assange’s asylum request later Thursday.
Britain’s Supreme Court dismissed Assange’s appeal in May, paving the way for his extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes. Assange took refuge at the embassy in June to avoid extradition.
The 41-year-old Australian who founded the Wikileaks website has embarrassed several governments, including the United States authorities, by publishing millions of secret diplomatic cables on the Internet.
Since his arrest in Britain in December 2010, Assange fought a lengthy legal battle against extradition, fearing that his return to Sweden would lead eventually to his extradition to the United States to face the anger of the authorities over his publishing of the diplomatic cables.
Xinhua News Agency
August 15, 2012
Ecuador denounces British threat to storm embassy over Assange asylum
QUITO: Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino Wednesday denounced Britain’s threat to enter Ecuador’s embassy in London to seize WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who seeks asylum there.
Patino told reporters that Ecuador’s Ambassador to London, Ana Alban, was notified that British authorities “could assault” the embassy, if Assange “is not handed over.”
The British government had said it is “determined” to extradite Assange to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault. “The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden…and we remain determined to fulfill this obligation,” said a Foreign Office spokesman.
In Quito, Patino called Britain’s threat a “hostile and unfriendly act” that violates “clear international norms.” “We are not a British colony,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa received a legal brief on Assange’s asylum request, as he prepared to deliver a decision on the closely-watched case.
Correa met with a team of legal experts who prepared the brief, accompanied by his Attorney General Diego Garcia, Presidential Office Spokesman Fernando Alvarado and Foreign Minister Patino.
After the meeting, Patino told reporters that he personally handed the brief to Correa, but declined to say whether the document recommended granting political asylum to the Australian-born journalist, who has been taking refuge at Quito’s embassy in London since June 19.
“I can’t give you any information,” Patino said.
The Ecuadorean government has spent almost two months analyzing Assange’s asylum request, which has complex implications for Ecuador’s relationship with Australia, Britain, Sweden and the United States – all of them with an involvement in the Assange-Wikileaks affair.
Last Monday, Correa said he would meet with his legal team Wednesday to study the brief before making “a responsible and sovereign decision” regarding the sensitive case.
On Tuesday, Correa denied a news report in the British daily The Guardian that claimed Ecuador had decided to grant asylum to Assange.
Ecuador’s final decision on the asylum request is expected at any moment.
While Correa has consulted with top officials on the matter, several government officials have said the decision rested solely with the president.