“They could storm our embassy if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange.”
For anyone who was worried about the special relationship between the U.S. and the U.K., it’s alive and well, standing solid as a 1-2 punch for fascism which even Candidate Willard would be hard put to improve upon.
As the moment of writing, with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange still sitting in the temporarily safe confines of the Ecuadorian embassy to the U.K. in London, trying to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about charges of sexual assault there, he has been granted political asylum by Ecuador but has no immediately clear way of getting there, facing arrest if he leaves the embassy — or a possible British assault on the embassy!
Britain’s Foreign Office issued a statement later Wednesday citing a 1987 British law it says permits the revocation of diplomatic status of a building if the foreign power occupying it ”ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post.”
Mr Patino told a news conference that Ecuador received a written threat on Wednesday from Britain that “it could assault our embassy” if Assange was not handed over.
He said Britain’s threat was delivered to Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry and ambassador in London.
The Australian has been holed up in the embassy since June 19, taking refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning for alleged sexual misconduct. Assange’s supporters say the charges are trumped up and believe the US has secretly indicted him and would extradite him from Sweden.
Everyone is free to believe what they wish, but Assange has been pretty insistent that this is his ultimate fear: that extradition to Sweden will be merely a transfer point for extradition to the U.S. and a kangaroo court all set to silence him and make him pay for the embarrassment he has caused the ruling classes. (Note this from the “Evening Summary”: “Assange has said he would be prepared to return to Sweden to answer questions if he received diplomatic assurances that he would not be pursued by the US for leaking documents. So far this hasn’t happened.”)
The Guardian has been maintaining a live feed of posts on the subject, and I’ve yanked out several from late this afternoon that bring the story more or less up to date, with quick summaries of my own.
THE GUARDIAN’S EVENING SUMMARY . . .
. . . includes a report of Ecuador’s grant of asylum, Britain’s warning that he won’t be granted safe passage out of the embassy, and possible appeal to the International Court of Justice.
approx. 3:53pm EDT
* Ecuador has granted Julian Assange’s request for political asylum. In a high-octane speech in Quito, the country’s foreign minister said the South American nation believed the WikiLeaks founder’s fears of persecution were legitimate.
* Foreign secretary William Hague has made it clear there will be no safe passage. Although Ecuador has granted Assange’s request it is unclear quite how Assange will get there, with the prospect of his arrest if he leaves the embassy.
* Assange will give a live statement on Sunday 19 August at 2pm, according to Wikileaks’ Twitter feed. Again it is unclear how he will do this given the huge police presence on the doorsteps of the Ecuadorean embassy.
* Assange could appeal to the International Court of Justice if the UK blocks his exit, according to another Wikileaks tweet. Professor Eileen Denza, a legal expert on diplomatic issues, says the court has been used in the past to settle disputes. The situation is currently a standoff, with the embassy unable to hold him indefinitely and the UK not obliged to give Assange safe passage.
* Supporters and critics are still split between those who believe that Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault charges and those who believe it would open him up to extradition to the US. Assange has said he would be prepared to return to Sweden to answer questionsif he received diplomatic assurances that he would not be pursued by the US for leaking documents. So far this hasn’t happened.
AT ECUADOR’S REQUEST, THE UNION OF SOUTH AMERICAN
NATIONS HAS SCHEDULED A MEETING FOR SUNDAY
approx. 4:47pm EDT
The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) is due to hold an “extraordinary meeting” in Ecuador on Sunday to discuss the situation at the embassy in London.
A statement released on the website of Peru’s foreign ministry, which holds the rotating presidency of the intergovernmental union, said:
The foreign ministry of Peru lets public opinion know that, in concordance with the statutory responsibilities of the temporary presidency of Unasur, at the behest of the Republic of Ecuador and after consulting member states, an extraordinary meeting of the Counsel of Foreign Ministers of the Union has been convened on Sunday August 19 in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The meeting has been requested with the intention of considering the situation raised at the embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom.
Julian Assange is also due to give a live address on the same day, according to Wikileaks.
REPORT OF TODAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE
BY THE ECUADORIAN FOREIGN MINISTER
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino says his government believes that Julian Assange “may become a victim of political persecution, as a result of his dedicated defense of freedom of expression and freedom of press as well as his repudiation of the abuses of power in certain countries, and that these facts suggest that Mr. Assange could at any moment find himself in a situation likely to endanger life, safety or personal integrity.”
approx. 5:05pm EDT (updated approx. 5:20pm)
Wikileaks has published a translated transcript of the press conference held by Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino giving Ecuador’s reasons for granting asylum:
The government of Ecuador believes that these arguments lend support to the fears of Julian Assange, and it believes that he may become a victim of political persecution, as a result of his dedicated defense of freedom of expression and freedom of press as well as his repudiation of the abuses of power in certain countries, and that these facts suggest that Mr. Assange could at any moment find himself in a situation likely to endanger life, safety or personal integrity.
On Ecuador’s history of receiving those who have applied for territorial or refugee status:
Our country has stood out in recent years to accommodate a large number of people who have applied for territorial asylum or refugee status, having unconditionally respected the principle of non-refoulement and non-discrimination, while it has taken steps to provide refugee status in an expeditious manner, taking into account the circumstances of applicants, mostly Colombians fleeing armed conflicts in their own country.
UPDATE: THOSE BRITS ARE OH SO FUSSY ABOUT
EXTRADITION AND SEX CRIMES — OR ARE THEY?
I just noticed this post from Ian Welsh, reproduced here in its entirety:
Pinochet had women raped by dogs and Britain wouldn’t extradite him
Posted: 16 Aug 2012 06:48 AM PDT
So I don’t want to hear anything from Britain about how important extradition is to them or how important rape accusations are.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis