UK 'threatens' Ecuador over Assange asylum

2012-08-16 07:48

Quito — Ecuador accused Britain on Wednesday of threatening to storm its London embassy to arrest Julian Assange after the UK issued a stern warning to the South American nation ahead of its decision on an asylum bid by the WikiLeaks founder.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Britain had earlier in the day issued "a written threat it could assault our embassy" if Assange is not handed over.

Patino said he would announce on Thursday morning whether Ecuador would grant the request of the secret-spilling former Australian hacker, who took refuge in Ecuador's embassy on 19 June to avoid extradition to Sweden. Assange faces questioning there for alleged sexual misconduct.

As news broke of the warning, police were seen reinforcing Scotland Yard's presence outside the embassy in a tony London neighbourhood near the Harrods department store.

In Quito, about 30 people yelling "England, what part don't you understand, we are sovereign!" protested outside the British Embassy, and briefly trampled a British flag.

In London, a small group of Assange supporters gathered outside the Ecuadorean embassy late on Wednesday, according to live footage broadcast by a citizen journalist on the scene. The embassy was dark, though occasionally curtains appeared to move.

Diplomatic inviolability

British officials have vowed not grant Assange safe passage out of their country. They say they will arrest him the moment he steps foot outside the embassy.

But they had not publicly suggested they might strip the embassy of its diplomatic inviolability.

After Patino's brief appearance before reporters, Britain's Foreign Office issued a statement 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".

The AP found no record of that law ever being used to justify forcible entry into an embassy. Under international law, diplomatic posts are considered the territory of the foreign nation.

Asked by The Associated Press about Patino's characterisation of Britain's warning, a Foreign Office official said via e-mail that the letter "was not a threat" and was intended to clarify "all aspects of British law that Ecuador should be aware of". The official would not be identified by name, citing policy.

Patino said the missive including the veiled threat was delivered to his country's Foreign Ministry in writing and verbally to its ambassador in London on Wednesday. The law cited was Britain's 1987 Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act.

'Beacon of free speech'

Patino said Ecuador "rejects in the most energetic terms the explicit threat of the official British communication".

The country's London embassy posted a statement on its website suggesting that "instead of threatening violence" Britain should "use its energy to find a peaceful resolution to this situation which we are aiming to achieve".

The Foreign Office statement did not elaborate on Britain's intentions if Assange were to be granted asylum by Ecuador. Its leftist president, Rafael Correa, has called the Wikileaks founder a beacon of free speech but has used criminal libel law to try to silence opposition media at home.

"We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador [the] full picture," the British statement said, before adding: "We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."

Assange, whose 2010 publishing online of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables and military dispatches has angered US officials, says the charges against him are trumped up.

His supporters say they believe the US has secretly indicted him and would extradite him from Sweden.

Doubts over raid

Correa has said Assange could face the death penalty in the United States and for that reason he considers the asylum request a question of political persecution.

Analysts in Ecuador expressed doubts that Britain would raid the embassy.

Professor Julio Echeverria of Quito's Flacso university said Britain "has a long establish tradition in Europe of respecting diplomatic missions", which under international law are considered sovereign territory.

A former Ecuadorean ambassador to London, Mauricio Gandara, told The Associated Press "I refuse to believe in this threat because if asylum is granted the British government will not grant safe passage and Mr Assange could be in the embassy for a long time".

Meanwhile, AFP reported that the whistleblowing website Wikileaks on Thursday condemned the British threat.

"WikiLeaks condemns in the strongest possible terms the UK's resort to intimidation," it said in a statement.

'Show of force'

"A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum-seekers worldwide."

Wikileaks also said the embassy was currently surrounded by police "in a menacing show of force".

"Any transgression against the sanctity of the embassy is a unilateral and shameful act, and a violation of the Vienna Convention, which protects embassies worldwide," it said.

"This threat is designed to pre-empt Ecuador's imminent decision on whether it will grant Julian Assange political asylum, and to bully Ecuador into a decision that is agreeable to the United Kingdom and its allies.

"We remind the public that these extraordinary actions are being taken to detain a man who has not been charged with any crime in any country," it added.

A British Foreign Office spokesman has said police were ready to arrest Assange for breaching the terms of his bail granted in 2010.

Tougher stance

"The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offenses and we remain determined to fulfill this obligation," the spokesperson said in London.

Wikileaks noted that the tougher stance by London coincided with British Foreign Secretary William Hague standing in for Prime Minister David Cameron while he was on vacation.

It claimed Hague's department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, had overseen the negotiations to date with Ecuador.

"If Mr Hague has, as would be expected, approved this decision, WikiLeaks calls for his immediate resignation," it said.

Assange's mother earlier on Thursday claimed the United States was behind the British threat.

"What the US wants, the US gets from its allies, regardless of if it's legal or if it's ethical or in breach of human or legal rights," she told reporters in Australia.

Patino said Ecuador "has made a decision" on whether to grant Assange asylum and would announce it at noon on Thursday.

  • arthur.salvado - 2012-08-16 08:12

    Britain and the USA above the law and can do as they please ...... so they think. It will one day soon can back and bite them in the arse.

      Spiral - 2012-08-16 08:36

      i think Assange has so much dirt on the 'the most powerful nation & its lap dog' that they'll do anything to keep him quite.

      Jaba - 2012-08-16 09:49

      Arthur. If he had dirt on Russia or China he would be dead already... better the devil you know. I much prefer a world run by the West - my freedom includes writing what I feel like in news24... you too enjoy that freedom, so enjoy it but appreciate where it stems from.

      boom.baracus - 2012-08-16 13:58

      Fidel: 1. Denies the Holocaust. 2. Denies the invasion of Tibet by China. 3. Admits being a Jew-hater. In fact boasts of it. 4. States that "I never thought ANOTHER muslim would..." and then denies that he is a muslim. 5. Denigrates Nelson Mandela but supported Gaddaffi and supports Assad, the man repsonsible for the deaths of over 12,000 Syrian civilians. Anybody who takes his statements seriously is a bigger fool than he is.

  • phae.rayden - 2012-08-16 08:27

    Come on Ecuador, you waited too long and I'm not sure how you are going to get this guy out of the building if you decide to give him asylum anyway...sorry Julian looks like your time is up.

  • tebogo.kwape.1 - 2012-08-16 08:41

    What the US wants, the US gets and this at all costs even if it means violating foreign and independent soil, killing whoever they want to kill including innocent lives and invading any country they wish to invade. At any cost, it doesnt matter what laws get broken and what mess gets left behind. Its not their mess to worry about in any case and none of their leaders will ever stand to acccount at the Hague.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-08-16 08:47

      You're talking rubbish.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 09:32

      A rogue state, that has no regard for intl law!

      delish7564 - 2012-08-16 11:52

      Unfortunately given that the UK Government agreed any of it's own citizens could be taken from their homes by the US without any explanation, that gives a clear indication of how far it is prepared to go for the US. I would be worried too, if it was me, so can't say I blame Assange.....if he gets to Sweden, I think there is no doubt they will hand him over to the US. In that case, it's very unlikely he will be given a fair trial, if he doesn't disappear beforehand, in my opinion!!!!!!!

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-08-16 12:00

      Might makes right. And I don't think that will change in future.

  • ben.louw.5 - 2012-08-16 09:03

    C'mon Ecuador! Show us there's hope.

  • andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 09:16

    I don't understand? This guy is nothing more than a hypocritical spy. But instead of selling secrets he gave them away. He's shown that he is himself happy to break the law and disregard international treaties to win(and by win I mean stay out of jail/the hands of the US etc). Why are people still backing him? He would sell any one of us out for his own gain, why defend him? I agree with what he stands for but he's going about it all wrong. Plus, all this hate for the UK but they're not breaking the law - they're just strong arming the Ecuadorians which is something that is common in every sphere of life. Although I can understand a disapproval of it but Ecuador has a less than spotless human rights record and no one says anything about them? Not only this but Assange is willing to accept assylum in a country who's government stands for everything he hates. If that's not a window into his shallow, selfish soul I don't know what is.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 09:40

      There is spying and there is whistle blowing, two totally different things. Please you do not want to bring up human right records when it comes to both the US and her lackey. What does Eucador stand for? I suggest you study the history of Eucador and its relationship with the US.

      andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 10:12

      Where do we draw the line? If its military secrets its spying in my eyes but I may be wrong. I have a couple mates from Ecuador and they assure me that their government isn't as friendly to those who oppose them. According the the reporters without borders press freedom index ecuador is ranked 84. In the 2012 Index of freedom, they're ranked 156. Below China, Syria and Russia. Their record is shocking. I quote the economist intelligence unit summary on Ecuador \Ecuador is a multi-party democracy, however the independance of its already weak institutions, as well as its system of checks and balances, have been severly eroded since 2007(when Correa took power)\. I'm not defending anyone's record nor am I even considering the USA or anyone else so don't bring them into it. Look at Assange and what he's asking of Ecuador and what it reveals. I'm asking why Assange would accept help from a government who is not in agreement with his principles and expose his double standards.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 10:56

      Assange has chosen Eucador, primarily out of desperation and self preservation, secondly out of a belief that Eucador will not allow itself to be pushed politically by both the UK and the US, after having studied the relationship that the US has with Eucador (Eucador is allied with Venezuela and Bolivia, both political opponents of US foreign policy in South America). If Sweden and the UK are willing to forego their principles, in order to satify US belligerence, why shouldn't Assange do the same, especially if this involves his freedom.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-16 10:56

      What did wikileaks blow the whistle-on ? The only arrests I have heard of is Manning's . Not quite the revelations they were built up to be. Fidel don't walk around assuming US and UK are the only states with a history human rights abuses or even purport that they are even near the 'worst' which you seem to a major hard-on for . Its just bald face lies .

      andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 11:17

      If he's willing to do the same as the US and UK as you put it, doesn't that compromise his position as a bastion for playing things by the book? You're getting thin on answers. Besides. If the US want him, why not extradite him from the UK? Their record of approving extraditions would make me feel safer in Sweden than the UK. As an aside, it would be easier for the CIA to arrange a car accident in Ecuador than the UK or Sweden. Aside from that the US hasn't been at all vocal about any of this, and let's face it - they jump up and down telling everyone how they should do things whether it involves the US or not suggests they're not really interested in him. The US probably don't have anything to gain by getting him either as it'll just make him a figurehead for the tinfoil legionaires?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 11:25

      "What did wikileaks blow the whistle-on" The Iraqi war-log files. To me they revealed the true barbaric character of Amerika, more despicable because of the noisy pretensions they constantly make about their humanity and idealism.... I am sure you saw the video posted online as well,no? A war that is not justifiable is nothing short of mass murder.

      andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 11:28

      In my opinion he's not stupid. And when you go to piss off so many people - you're gonna want insurance. That insurance is probably a bunch of sensitive secrets. So if he is taken out, he'll release them hence why the US is keeping so quite. A bit hypocritical though that someone who purports to live to expose secrets has chosen to keep some of his own.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 11:48

      @Andrew You must have missed US politicians' calling for his extradition and assasination. You have no idea what interests the American political establishment, or are you on first name terms with them. You are no different to the people you accuse of being tinfoil legionaires, because you have also closed your eyes to the idea that both Sweden and the US might be behaving in a disingeneous way.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-16 11:53

      Justifiable ? ok , going a little off topic but was it justified to leave Saddam 's crime family in power ? A guy that forced half his parliment to execute the other half to make them complicit , his sons terrorising the populaion and even torturing their athletes. Twice attacking its neighbours , annexing one of them . Genocide using chemical weapons , being in violation gulf war conditions of cease fire . Contravening all four requirements for soverignty . A constant threat and violator of regional stability and human rights.By all means defend genocidal dicators , fascists , totalitarian regimes and capitulate to Islamic Jihadist terrorists who want to install global serfdom. I'd consider that standing up for your values , ideals and humanity in the face of theocratic opposition, morally repulsive pacificism and lack of humanitarian accountability .

      andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 11:58

      Fidel, I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm not defending the US so get off your high horse. Obviously you're just as neutral in all of this as a US diplomat is as is obvious from your insistance to bring the US how much you hate them into this discussion. I'm discussing Assange primarily. Remember, he's on record saying that any civilian informants that wikileaks may have revealed deserve to be murdered by the Taliban. But you're defending someone who acts as judge and jury and appoints an executioner? As they say \if you looked into the heart of your enemy, what would you find that is different from what is in your own heart?\ How can you condemn the US for playing hardball while supporting someone who advocates mass murder for peope doing what they thought was right?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 12:24

      @Ninja And you still believe that the US went into Iraqi to free Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. That is a joke, it's not even an insult to our intelligence any more. @Andrew It's disingeneous to try and discuss Julian's case without mention of why he is being persecuted. Even if Julian uttered those words, the blowback that might have ensued is "miniscule" compared to the destruction that those collaborating with US forces have visited upon the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

      andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 12:39

      Seriously? You're still comparing him to the US? You're still saying that what he did was okay because someone else did worse? He's a massive hypocrite who's willing to side with more than one oppressive government - Ecuador, Ethiopia(see the case involving the Ethiopian wistleblowing reporter Argaw Ashine), Belarus(he passed on information before it was published to the Belarusian govt that enabled them to crack down on their dissidents). His original mission statement was to expose 'oppressive regimes in Asia, the former soviet bloc, sub saharan African and the Middle east' how much further could he have diverged from his own self imposed priniciples if he's helping such regimes? Stop defending him for changing the subject. Actually, I challenge you to make a case as to why you're defending him without mentioning or referencing the US, UK or similar and their agendas.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-16 12:41

      Really ? What did they go for ...No conspiracy please and it still doesn't answer the questions.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 13:05

      @Ninja To free Iraqi oil fields from the Iraqis! @Andrew I am defending him solely because of exposing those democracy loving human rights defenders' double speak and criminality. I am even prepared to overlook his other "indescretions" (and I'm taking your word for this) because these other countries aren't involved in adventurism and global hegemony, aren't dropping bombs around the world on trumped up WMDs. It has been the war-log files that brought an interest to me regarding Assange, and I couldn't care less about the gossip in the embassy cables.

      gerhard.kress.3 - 2012-08-16 13:23

      Mgoqi the US has got more untapped oil resources than the entire Middle East. That means they do not go anywhere for the oil.

      andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 13:24

      Nuh uh uh. You mentioned a conspiracy theory which Ninja said not to(it will be a conspiracy theory until some proof comes out of it). And I told you not to mention agenda's in your defense. If you don't believe me, do some research. Be that as it may, are you admitting to being a bigot who accepts some atrocities and fights veheminently against others? Are you also admitting to ignoring the human rights abuses of countries perpetrated by their governments on their own citizens? Are you also allowing yourself to ignore the fact that Assagne obviously has his own agenda that has directly and intentionally led to the deaths and persecution of many freedom fighters and whistle blowers by their dictatorships(Ethiopia and Belarus are considered authoritatian regimes by the Economist democracy index) ergo non democratic states he supported? In other words, in the world according to 'fidel', anyone opposing the US is someone you'd support irrespective of their own agenda and attitude to human rights?

      boom.baracus - 2012-08-16 13:57

      Fidel: 1. Denies the Holocaust. 2. Denies the invasion of Tibet by China. 3. Admits being a Jew-hater. In fact boasts of it. 4. States that "I never thought ANOTHER muslim would..." and then denies that he is a muslim. 5. Denigrates Nelson Mandela but supported Gaddaffi and supports Assad, the man repsonsible for the deaths of over 12,000 Syrian civilians. Anybody who takes his statements seriously is a bigger fool than he is.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-16 14:41

      Fidel : Oil theory as I predicted , Of course keeping Saddam from the enriching , re-arming and funding his crime family was important and to stop the corrupted oil-for-food program between Saddam and the UN from further funding his building of his personal palaces . An attempt to get proceeds to the people and not in his hands . Doesn't even matter coz the US govt has to buy oil from the market run by OPEC cartel , if anything its those countries which sought to benefit from continued instability in Iraq. I'm not going to carry on oil theory it doesn't hold water. Let me ask you what were the options in dealing with Saddam ? Continue sanctions while corrupt officials abused the system at the expense of iraq's and further impoverishing them and resulting casualties , removing sanctions and letting him carry on in the hope of him changing his ways waiting for the inevitable choas when his even more grotesque sons battle for power and setting a precedent of total unaccoutability or to draw a line in the sand for change with expicit use of force unless complied with ? None of the options represented a out which was perticularly palatable but at least removing him gave them a chance at having a voice , electing leaders and hope to be free of dictatorial oppression . Can it boil down to anything but those options , i'm quite convinced a conflict with the Iraqi Ba'athist regime of Saddam was inevitable.

  • docnoo.boddy - 2012-08-16 09:26

    "White man speak with fork tongue" the Red Indians said of the white man, these white men being predominantly British immigrants into America. Centuries later this still rings true. The Brits are prepared to go to war with a sovereign state to extradite a man who has not been charged with any crime.. so weak is the evidence against him, in fact the investigation was originally dropped and then -surprise surprise- reopened when the Americans wanted to extradite him. Yet the one fork of the British tongue insists that this has nothing to do with Wiki-leaks but rather their "obligation". Then the other half of the fork tongue does not want to extradite a person who has been charged with first degree murder in South Africa (Shrien Dewani), where overwhelming evidence has been presented, where one of the co-conspirators is already serving his jail sentence for his part because............. his emotional state is fragile and they are concerned about him. I have no real opinion about Wiki-leaks but I hope that the Ecuadorians get him out of that snake pit.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 09:35

      The Brits have always spoken out of both side of their mouth!

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-16 10:47

      What a load of bollucks ! No.1 its Sweden they want to exradite him too . They haven't shown or provided to the public the email from the Brits which considering their gigantic talk of whistle-blowing and free speech is "fork-tongued" indeed. Do you know the specific differences between European extradition law and British/South African extradtion ?I have a feeling there might be a few differences and legal bureaucracy but i do know judgements in SA do not incriminate or set precedent in another countries legal framework. Have balls and openly spew your hate and bigotry rather than cloak it fabrications and conjecture .

      docnoo.boddy - 2012-08-16 11:57

      Easy does it ninja, you might just knock yourself out with your dumb-chucks. Firstly, I accept that the phrase "Americans wanted to extradite" was incorrect, it was after an outcry by the Americans following large scale exposure of their military campaign in Afghanistan that the Swedes re-opened the case. It has been suggested that there is a sealed indictment against Assange, which if true will mean that he will be almost immediately be extradited to the US where he could face the death penalty. Although no expert, I am familiar with extradition cases and can assure you that it is unprecedented that the British government will issue veiled threats of an embassy siege for a person wanted "only for questioning" yet will coddle a person who has been "charged" with a despicable crime where overwhelming evidence has been presented to their courts and where co-conspirators are already serving jail time. "judgement" as you put it has not been passed on Dewani as indeed any "in absentia" judgement will not be valid beyond ANY countries borders. The point is a first degree murder warrant issued with substantiating evidence - which incidentally has resulted in an extradition order, but that has been set aside- should carry a lot more weight than an "alleged sexual offence" which carries no warrant at present and has the flimsiest of of supporting evidence.

      andrew.pottow - 2012-08-16 13:31

      Fair enough DOC, but the UK has shown that they're more than willing to extradite people to the US recently. So, if they wanted Assange, why not go for him in the UK?

      boom.baracus - 2012-08-16 13:57

      Fidel: 1. Denies the Holocaust. 2. Denies the invasion of Tibet by China. 3. Admits being a Jew-hater. In fact boasts of it. 4. States that "I never thought ANOTHER muslim would..." and then denies that he is a muslim. 5. Denigrates Nelson Mandela but supported Gaddaffi and supports Assad, the man repsonsible for the deaths of over 12,000 Syrian civilians. Anybody who takes his statements seriously is a bigger fool than he is.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-16 15:16

      @DOC- well as long as we exclude all the irrelevant stereotyped slander then thats good. Firstly i think Dewani should come and stand trial here (not fighting you there) but with due process which is fundamentally important , by the same logic irrespective of your opinion of the evidence there are charges and extradition agreements which must be upheld. Will Assange be executed in the US ? Highly unlikely , it would be the first to my knowledge to happen since Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who proliferated atomic secrets in the 50's.Haven't seen the British statement so unable to cast an opinion outside of the emmbassies version. You will have to excuse me if I get up tight about broad perjoritive statements about an entire people , become a touch sensitive about it and the gross hypocracy that is associated with it.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-08-16 09:43

    I really don't see what the threat was but informing them of what they obligated by law to do which is to arrest him , he has not received asylum yet either . Show us the communication? Otherwise we taking the word of a desperate guy to avoid charges and an emmbassy of a small country who see's an oppertunity for political milage(Americans will not sentence him to death, that is ludicris and Correa knows thumbing his nose at the US and UK will score a few votes) , show us the communication like you showed the world the leaks ...

  • louis.cheyne1 - 2012-08-16 10:34

    This is going to cause big problems for the UK and it's allies, trouble is coming for these people who think they can do as they like. We need to stand together on this one, freedom of news and information are paramount.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-08-16 11:04

    We are living in an upside down world. A warmonger gets the Nobel prize.. Someone who exposes the truth behind the war, behind the media curtain is prosecuted/persecuted. Julian should hope that Correa is not subject to another embarrassing coup attempt.

      boom.baracus - 2012-08-16 13:57

      Fidel: 1. Denies the Holocaust. 2. Denies the invasion of Tibet by China. 3. Admits being a Jew-hater. In fact boasts of it. 4. States that "I never thought ANOTHER muslim would..." and then denies that he is a muslim. 5. Denigrates Nelson Mandela but supported Gaddaffi and supports Assad, the man repsonsible for the deaths of over 12,000 Syrian civilians. Anybody who takes his statements seriously is a bigger fool than he is.

  • miquette.caalsen - 2012-08-16 11:17

    This Assange situation is really ridiculous. He is screaming to high heaven because he now receives the "freedoms" he so vehemently spouted when he published his 'leaks'. I saw that he complained to the Swedish police that he didn't want to give evidence to them because he is afraid his statement would end up in the media. Hmmm ... let me think about this ... you don't want your "dirty laundry" aired but you have no problem airing someone else's dirty laundry? Sweden is not the US's "lapdog - they neither need, nor ask, for America's favour. Sweden is however a country that (unlike ours it would seem) feel very strongly about protecting their citizens and seeking justice if any of them are violated. According to their law (a law older than ol' Assange and his soapbox) there is reason to believe he violated the rights of a Swedish citizen. These guys do not look kindly on that. Did anyone miss that this Assange dude seems to have bed-hopped like a "playa"? Normally people here would condemn that but because it’s this duplicitous twit most are falling over themselves to defend him? And has anyone considered the lives the twit put at risk when he decided he was mankind’s savior and had the sole right and discretion to decide who is right and who is wrong? His asylum attempt in Ecuador is clear proof that he does not have the courage of his so-called “convictions” – he seeks protection from a country that stands for everything he says is wrong with the world.

      elewies - 2012-08-16 15:06


  • mia.arens - 2012-08-16 18:51

    Fidel can't really have denied the holocaust, or the Chinese invasion of Tibet, surely you re wrong about that.

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