Ecuador has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, citing genuine concerns that his human rights might be violated and that the sex offense accusations against him may be used as an opportunity for the US to prosecute him for published classified documents.
Assange began hiding out in Ecuador’s London embassy after UK courts denied his appeal for extradition to Sweden. Ecuador’s long-awaited decision comes after British authorities threatened to revoke the embassy’s diplomatic status in order to give them legal cover to forcibly enter the embassy and arrest Assange.
In response to this move, Ecuador’s foreign minister said, “We can’t allow spokespeople from the UK to gleefully say they have been honest when they have threatened us in such a way.”
But the British Foreign Office warned it would not respect the Ecuadoran government’s decision. “Under our law,” the office said in a statement, “with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden.
“We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorean government’s decision this afternoon does not change that.”
Later, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would not grant Mr. Assange safe passage to Ecuador because “there is no legal basis for us to do so.”
He said the extradition they are legally obliged to carry out regards allegations of “serious sexual offenses,” and had nothing to do with the work of WikiLeaks or with a desire by US authorities to try him for publishing diplomatic secrets.
But according to leaked emails from the defense consulting group Stratfor, “a sealed indictment has been issued by a secret grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, for Julian Assange. The email is dated 26 January 2011. This means that there has likely been a sealed extradition order for over a year, which will be activated (unsealed) against Assange in Sweden, Australia and the UK when the US Government gives the order.”