British authorities sparked a scandal when they announced they were prepared to raid the Ecuadorian embassy in order to apprehend the WikiLeaks founder. “The colonial times are over,” Ecuadorian minister Ricardo Patino retorted.
Ecuador has granted on Thursday asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in its London embassy while fighting extradition from the UK, the BBC informs. It said there were fears Mr Assange’s human rights might be violated. Foreign minister Ricardo Patino accused the UK of making an “open threat” to enter its embassy to arrest him. The Foreign Office said the decision on Mr Assange’s application for political asylum would not affect the UK’s legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden. Earlier, the UK Foreign Office said it can lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to fulfill a “legal obligation” to extradite the 41-year-old. In an official note to the Ecuadorians it said it was “surprised” by media reports that “Ecuador is about to take a decision and proposes to grant asylum to Mr Assange”. In June, the UK’s Supreme Court dismissed Mr Assange’s bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start. It was during that fortnight, while on bail, that he sought refuge.A number of police officers went to the Ecuadorian embassy in London where some of Mr Assange’s supporters have also gathered. According to the BBC, a small number were handcuffed after minor skirmishes with officers. Russia Today (RT) informed on the other hand that scuffles broke out between police and supports as officers surrounded them in an attempt to disperse them from the embassy premises. Three Assange supporters were arrested in the struggle, wrote RT’s London correspondent. Also, RT reported that the UK authorities sparked a scandal when they announced they were prepared to raid the Ecuadorian embassy in order to apprehend Assange, effectively revoking the embassy’s diplomatic immunity.In response, the Ecuadorian National Assembly President Fernando Cordero called an emergency meeting to assess “unusual and arrogant threat to pave our embassy in London.” “Giving asylum doesn’t fundamentally change anything,” said a spokesperson from the UK Foreign Office.“We must be absolutely clear this means that should we receive a request for safe passage for Mr Assange, after granting asylum, this would be refused.” The Ecuadorian foreign minister said that such an act would be interpreted as “hostile and intolerable,” and an attack on Ecuador’s sovereignty that would provoke a dramatic diplomatic response.“We want to be very clear, we’re not a British colony. The colonial times are over,” Ecuadorian minister Ricardo Patino said following a meeting with President Rafael Correa.Demonstrators also protested outside the British embassy in Ecuador’s capital. Images from Quito showed protesters holding signs saying “We are sovereign, not colonies” and a union jack being stepped on, the BBC reports.