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Big news Thursday out of the United Kingdom:
‘CARACAS, Venezuela — Ecuador forcefully rejected British pressure to announce Thursday that it was granting political asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who has been holed up for two months in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London trying to avoid extradition to Sweden.
The government of Ecuador, faithful to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or in its diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange,” said Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, reading from a government communiqué at a news conference in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito. He added, “There are indications to presume that there could be political persecution,” and that Mr. Assange would not get a fair trial in the United States and could face the death penalty there.
The move gives Mr. Assange with protection from British arrest, but only on Ecuadorean territory, leaving him vulnerable if he tries to head to an airport or train.’
(Hat tip: Memeorandum)
The UK is now threatening to forcibly enter the Ecuadorian embassy:
(Reuters) – Britain on Wednesday warned Ecuador that it could raid its London embassy if Quito does not hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been taking refuge at the mission since mid-June.
In Quito, the Ecuadorean government said that any such action would be considered a violation of its sovereignty a “hostile and intolerable act.”
“Under British law we can give them a weeks’ notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “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.”
This was Ecuador’s pointed response:
In Quito, the government bristled at the threat and said it would announce its decision on Assange’s asylum request on Thursday at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT).
“We want to be very clear, we’re not a British colony. The colonial times are over,” Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said in an angry statement after a meeting with President Rafael Correa.
“The move announced in the official British statement, if it happens, would be interpreted by Ecuador as an unfriendly, hostile and intolerable act, as well as an attack on our sovereignty, which would force us to respond in the strongest diplomatic way,” Patino told reporters.
“We’re not a British colony.” Wow. And that’s exactly what it will appear that the UK government thinks of Ecuador if it chooses to invade the sovereign territory of Ecuador’s embassy to arrest Assange.
As Michael Rozeff notes at the Lew Rockwell blog, the UK’s threat is illegal because it violates a treaty that the UK has signed:
‘…the United Kingdom signed the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in 1963. It states in Article 31 that “The authorities of the receiving State shall not enter that part of the consular premises which is used exclusively for the purpose of the work of the consular post except with the consent of the head of the consular post or of his designee or of the head of the diplomatic mission of the sending State.”‘
The world is watching and waiting…