Ecuador has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The decision comes almost two months after the world-famous whistle blower came to the country's embassy in London seeking protection. The announcement was met with celebrations outside the Ecuadorian embassy as the WikiLeaks founder's supporters began chanting "Hands off Ecuador" and "Assange freedom fighter".
Patino admitted that Julian Assange's rights are endangered, as he is at high risk of extradition from Sweden to the US. Moreover, Assange's home country will not provide him with adequate legal protection, he said. [Shame on you Australia !!! Julia Gillard, you're too concerned with your alliance with the USA, I have no doubt !! ]
Patino also reiterated Ecuador's offer to allow Sweden to interview Assange in their embassy in London, which was turned down. Stockholm would neither guarantee that the WikiLeaks founder would not be extradited again once he is on Swedish soil.
Julian Assange has called Patino's statement a "significant victory" reports the BBC. His mother, Christine Assange, tells RT she has been hopeful all the time as Ecuador has a strong record of protecting political refugees. The UK still 'committed' to extraditing Assange.
The UK Foreign Office says it is "disappointed" with Ecuador's decision, but says it does not affect Britain's legal obligation to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to Sweden.Earlier in the day, the British government has stated it has absolutely no intention of letting Assange reach the South American country. The UK said that it will do everything in its power to block Assange's passage to Ecuador.
UK authorities sparked a scandal when they announced they were prepared to raid the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to apprehend Assange, effectively revoking the embassy's diplomatic immunity.
In the first part of his speech, Ricardo Patino extensively reprimanded the approach saying 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.
"I will hit you hard, but if you behave [in propriety], I might not," the Ecuadorian foreign minister said reminding that UN and Vienna Conventions prohibit violating diplomatic space.
Meanwhile, Sweden has summoned Ecuador's ambassador, calling Assange asylum decision "unacceptable".
Ecuador claimed they received a "direct" written threat on Wednesday that authorities in London are prepared to storm the Ecuadorian embassy and arrest Assange if he is not delivered into their custody. The note was delivered to Ecuador's Foreign Ministry and ambassador in London, Patino said. The decision to strip the Ecuadorian Embassy of its diplomatic protection has not yet been taken, the spokesperson said: "Under British law we can give them a week's notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection. We are not going to do this overnight." The threat to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy was "extremely serious" and illegal WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnnsson told AFP.
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