Tiny Ecuador takes on UK over Assange asylum

FPJ BureauUpdated: Sunday, June 02, 2019, 01:53 AM IST
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FPJ NEWS SERVICE Caracas/ London

Ecuador said on Thursday that it had decided to grant political asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who has been holed up for two months in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The announcement has triggered an international row as Britain has said it is under legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden.

The granting of asylum has led to a situation in which Britain is claiming that it has powers to enter the Ecuador embassy in London and arrest the 41- yearold Australian national.

But the Ecuador was equally defiant on Thursday and just before the asylum announcement, President Rafael Correa said: ‘No one is going to terrorize us!’On Wednesday, the Ecuadorian foreign minister had said that the British authorities had threatened to barge into the countrys embassy in London if officials did not hand over Assange. ‘Today we have received from the United Kingdom an explicit threat in writing that they could assault our embassy in London if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange,’the Minister said at a news conference in Quito, adding defiantly, ‘We are not a British colony.’A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said: ‘The granting of asylum does not change our position.

Our position is that we have a duty to extradite him, even if he is granted political asylum’. Britain claims it has a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he is wanted to face questioning about allegations of sexual misbehavior.

The whistleblower, who invited the wrath of the United States after publishing secret diplomatic cables, has maintained that the allegations of sexual offences against him were politically motivated.

The British government has also made it clear it would not allow Assange to leave the country to travel to Ecuador, so even with a grant of asylum or similar protection, he would probably remain stuck in the embassy.

The Ecuadorian foreign minister said his government had taken the decision to grant asylum after the authorities in Britain, Sweden and the United States refused to give guarantees that, if Assange were extradited to Sweden, he would not then be sent on to America to face other charges.— Input Agencies/ NYT

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