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Assange Live: Sweden summons Ecuador's ambassador

by FP Staff  Aug 16, 2012 20:20 IST

#Britain   #Ecuador   #Julian Assange   #NewsTracker   #Wikileaks  

8. 20 pm: The Swedish Foreign Ministry says it has summoned Ecuador's ambassador over the Latin American country's decision to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum.

The decision to grant Assange asylum may interrupt British efforts to extradite the Australian ex-hacker to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sexual misconduct allegations. Assange is currently hold up in Ecuador's embassy in London.

Stockholm Foreign Ministry spokesman Anders Jorle said, "We want to tell them that it's unacceptable that Ecuador is trying to stop the Swedish judicial process."

7. 14 pm: Sweden, however, rejected Ecuador's claim that Julian Assange, wanted by Stockholm, would not have a fair trial as a reason for granting him political asylum. "Our firm legal and constitutional system guarantees the rights of each and everyone. We firmly rejectany accusations to the contrary," foreign minister Carl Bildt said on his Twitter account.

6.32pm: Home Affairs editor of the BBC, Dominic Casciani does a succinct Twitter sum up of how the situation stands right now:

6.24pm:The UK Foreign office has expressed its disappointment with the Ecuador decision to grant Assange political asylum, but said that it would not change their commitment to carrying out their obligation to Sweden. In a strong statement the Foreign Office said in no uncertain terms that they would carry out their obligation. However they have said that they are open to a negotiated settlement.

6.10pm: And it's done! Ecuador has granted Julian Assange political asylum. He says that they hope the UK will respect the decision and facilitate the smooth process. He said that they tried to reach out to the Swedish government, but they never showed a willingness to reach an agreement. "Ecuador wanted to have an interview with Sweden because we didnt want to intervene with what was happening there, but they refused our request. They wanted guarantees that Assange would not be extradited to the US, but they refused to give us guarantees", he said.

Announcing Ecuador's decision, Mr Patino said the country believed Mr Assange's fears of political persecution were "legitimate".

He said the country was being loyal to its "tradition" of protecting those who are vulnerable.

6.05pm: Ecuador Foreign Minister Patino is clearly trying to a strong case, by citing a number of laws, treaties and precedents before announcing the decision, including the European covenant and the US bill of human rights. He is specifically concentrating on exceptions to extradition. He is strongly hinting that the asylum application of Julian Assange fits with the asylum requirements.

6.00pm: Ecuador reiterates its commitment to human rights and safeguarding the rights of refugees, calls asylum 'a fundamental human privilege'. This is looking good for Assange, and bad for diplomatic relations between Ecuador and the United Kingdom.

5.51pm: Patino says Ecuador has examined all the evidence presented by Assange, citing fear on his part of his "personal security, life and liberty." He said he thinks that there is a high risk that Assange will be extradited and if he is extradited to the US, he will not get a fair trial, since he will have to face charges in a military court.

He adds that Ecuador is of the belief that if Assange is extradited to Sweden, it will set off a chain of events that will see him ultimately send him to the US.

5.42pm:Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has hit out at the UK again, calling their statement "aggressive and improper". He is expected to announce the decision on Assange now and has reiterated the right of Ecuador to "freely make a decision on a request for asylum made by a citizen". A live stream of the press conference can be accessed here.

Patino has also said that Ecuador is yet to receive any kind of formal apology for the 'threat' it received from the UK administration. "We are a free state not subject to external pressures, UK attacked Ecuador's right to consider asylum", he said.

5.22pm: The Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino is currently holding a press conference. Will we finally get a decision on whether or not, Assange will get asylum? Meanwhile the Home Affairs correspondent for Sky News, Mark White has tweeted out that a Ecuadorean government source says it would be "fundamental error" to arrest Julian Assange inside their embassy, because it would send diplomatic relations "back to the dark ages".

4.17pm: Can Britain grab Assange from the Ecuador office?

Many legal experts are skeptical. The diplomatic fallout would be immense, leaving British missions around the world vulnerable to reprisals.And lawyers say a British court would likely be unwilling to sanction a raid on the embassy.

The law was intended for situations in which a diplomatic mission was being used for serious wrongdoing such as terrorism. Sheltering Assange hardly compares. Former government lawyer Carl Gardner says a court would likely rule that using the law against Assange would be inconsistent with the intent of the law.

"I don't see it as a realistic prospect that the government would do a dash for the airport with him," he said.

Britain says it has a legal duty to extradite the 41-year-old Australian to Sweden, regardless of what Ecuador decides. If he emerges from the embassy, he will be arrested. Britain says it wants to find a diplomatic solution, but with Ecuador enraged, that looks farther off than ever.

2.47pm: The UK foreign office has reportedly said that even if Assange gets asylum it will not change anything. It says that the UK has a legal duty to extradite him to Sweden.

A new post on the subject by website Darker net says, "The Ecuadorean Government will need to grant him immediate citizenship and appoint him Honorary Consul, or better, UK or UN Ambassador and issue him with a diplomatic passport. Anything less will not work as the British authorities have upped the stakes and made it patently clear that they will ignore protocol and conventions to arrest Assange even if he is granted political asylum"

Read the entire post here.

Meanwhile  Wikileaks has tweeted that a helicopter has arrived near the Ecuadorian embassy, but it's not clear who is flying it or what it is doing there.

1.36am: There seems to be a delay in Ecuadors announcement on whether or not it will give Wikileaks founder Julian Assange bail. In the meantime Wikileaks supporters are organising protests outside the embassy and and are also tweeting out the addresses of UK consulates in other countries, asking people to picket. The Wikileaks effort is being joined by Occupy protestors as well.

11.20am: The Ecuadorian decision on Wikileaks founder Julian Assang's bid for asylum is due anytime now. In the meantime, the BBC has an interesting cheatsheet that details exactly what Assange is asking for, and how viable his bid may or may not be under international law. You can read it here.

10.32am: The Ecuadorian embassy has reportedly said it will bring forward its announcement on its decision to grant political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. A comment on an unofficial video stream of events said that the announcement had been brought forward to 7am, London time from 10am London time. (Thats 11.30am Indian time)

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

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino accused Britain of threatening to "assault our embassy" if Assange was not handed over.

A storming of Ecuador's embassy would be interpreted as "hostile and intolerable and, as well, an attempt on our sovereignty which would oblige us to respond with the greatest diplomatic force," he said.

London had warned Ecuador in writing earlier in the day that a 1987 British law permits it to revoke the 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." Its Foreign Office said later in statement that it is Britain's "obligation to extradite Mr. Assange."

9.48am: Wikileaks is alleging that as many as five police vans have been brought outside the Ecuador embassy in a show of strength and have blocked off a major Harrods loading bay along the side of the embassy. It also tweeted that vehicles carrying tomorrow's supplies have been turned away.

The latest videostream of events can be accessed here.

9.27am: Wikileaks is urging its supporters to go to the Ecuadorian embassy and make sure that UK police do not "violate international law" by taking founder Julian Assange under arrest. It has tweeted out the address of the embassy, as well as a Google maps link.

8.46am: Wikileaks has just tweeted that diplomatic police have just arrived at the Ecuadorian embassy. You can watch a live video stream here.

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

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

The Foreign Office statement did not elaborate on Britain's intentions if Assange were to be granted political asylum by Ecuador whose president, Rafael Correa, has expressed sympathy for the Wikileaks founder.

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

Under international law, diplomatic posts are considered the territory of the foreign nation.

8.40am: There have been protests in both Ecuador and the UK, over the UK's "threat" to the Ecuadorian embassy over Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. 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 were gathered outside the Ecuadorean embassy late Wednesday, according to live footage broadcast by a citizen journalist on the scene. The embassy was dark, although occasionally the curtains appeared to move.

British officials have vowed not grant Assange safe passage out of their country if Ecuador grants asylum. 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.

However a British Foreign Office spokesperson says, “Under British law we can give them a week’s notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection. But that decision has not yet been taken. We are not going to do this overnight. We want to stress that we want a diplomatically agreeable solution.”

8.30am: The Ecuadorean government will announce its decision on Julian Assange’s appeal for political asylum at 10 o'clock tonight, Eastern Australian time.
However, contrary to media and Twitter speculation, British police have not raided Ecuador’s London embassy to arrest Assange to facilitate his extradition to Sweden.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/political-news/tensions-mount-ahead-of-assange-asylum-decision-20120816-24a8a.html#ixzz23ftdG1Sb

8.10am: Wikileaks has just released a press release on the Ecuador and Assange situation, condemning the situation and calling it an attempt to "bully Ecuador into a decision that is agreeable to the United Kingdom and its allies."

The statement added that "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."

Reiterating that Assange had not been charged with any crime in any country, and called for the immediate resignation of UK Secretary of state William Hague, who is believed to have taken this decision in the absence of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

Full text is as follows: (Document may take some time to load)

Wikileaks Statement on Assange

8.00am: Ecuador has said it will announce its decision on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's application for asylum later today, after Britain reportedly threatened to enter the country's embassy here to arrest him.

Ecuador and Britain appeared to have reached a diplomatic impasse over Assange, who has taken refuge in its embassy here. Britain says it is under legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, while Ecuador insists that British authorities entering the embassy would violate the Vienna convention and would be considered a hostile act.

Reuters.

According to Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino, Britain had issued a 'threat' to enter the country's embassy in London in a letter served by a British embassy official in Quito.

A decision on Assange's asylum application will be announced today at 0530 IST, he said. Britain believes that it can withdraw diplomatic immunity and then enter the embassy under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act, 1987.

Reports from Quito quoted extracts of the British embassy letter: "You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy."

The letter added: "We need to reiterate that we consider the continued use of the diplomatic premises in this way incompatible with the Vienna Convention and unsustainable and we have made clear the serious implications that this has for our diplomatic relations."

An Ecuadorean government spokesman said: "We are deeply shocked by the British government's threats against the sovereignty of the Ecuadorean Embassy and their suggestion that they may forcibly enter the embassy". He added: "This a clear breach of international law and the protocols set out in the Vienna Convention. This stands in stark contrast to the escalation of the British Government today with their threats to break down the door of the Ecuadorean Embassy".

In London, a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We have consistently made our position clear in our discussions with the government of Ecuador. "The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences and we remain determined to fulfill this obligation".

She added: "We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador the full picture. "Throughout this process we have drawn the Ecuadoreans' attention to relevant provisions of our law, whether, for example, the extensive human rights safeguards in our extradition procedures, or the legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK. We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."