Thursday, August 16, 2012

Julian Assange is granted asylum by Ecuador as scuffles break out between protesters and the police

- Ecuador grants refuge to Mr Assange as the UK, US and Sweden could not guarantee he would not be extradited
- Protestors gather outside Ecuadorian embassy and two are arrested
- Ecuadorian foreign minister releases 'threatening' letter sent by UK Govt
- British officials warn Ecuador there will be 'serious implications' for their diplomatic relations if they do not hand over WikiLeaks founder
- Foreign office admits it has 'drawn Ecuadorians' attention' to law allowing them to arrest Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador, in a move that is likely to spark an international row.
The decision is likely to deepen tensions between the UK and Ecuador, who have grown increasingly hostile with each other over whether Mr Assange would be arrested and extradited.
The asylum decision, which was given 'extreme and careful consideration' was announced by foreign affairs minister Ricardo Patino in the Ecuadorian capital Quito.
The news was seen live by Mr Assange and embassy staff in a link to a press conference from Quito.

'The response from the United States has been that it cannot offer any guarantees.
'With these precedents in mind the Ecuadorian government, loyal to its tradition to protect those who seek refuge with us and in our diplomatic mission, have decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Mr Assange.'

Mr Patino said the Ecuadorian government had conducted lengthy diplomatic talks with the UK, Swedish and US governments.

None could give the guarantees about Mr Assange's future that the South American country was seeking and had shown 'no willingness' to negotiate on the issue.

US authorities were specifically asked if they had any intention to seek Mr Assange's extradition so they could start legal proceedings against him and what maximum penalty he could face.
Mr Patino called for Mr Assange to be guaranteed 'safe passage' to leave the embassy but the Foreign Office insisted this would not be offered.

The minister said: 'We trust that the United Kingdom will offer, as soon as possible, the guarantee for the safe passage for this asylum of Mr Assange and that they would respect those international agreements that they have signed in the past and that they have always respected.'

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