- Title: UNITED KINGDOM: Ecuador prepares to announce Julian Assange asylum decision
- Date: 16th August 2012
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (AUGUST 16, 2012) (REUTERS) MEDIA ACROSS THE ROAD FROM THE ECUADORIAN EMBASSY IN LONDON ECUADORIAN EMBASSY SIGN ECUADORIAN FLAG VARIOUS OF POLICE OUTSIDE EMBASSY EXTERIOR OF EMBASSY VARIOUS OF POLICE VAN AND OFFICER VARIOUS OF STREET SCENES INCLUDING NEARBY RETAIL STORE HARRODS MEDIA OUTSIDE EMBASSY VARIOUS OF PROTEST SIGNS SUPPORTING ASSANGE OUTSIDE EMBASSY VARIOUS OF POLICE OUTSIDE EMBASSY PROTESTERS SITTING OUTSIDE EMBASSY VARIOUS OF PROTEST SIGNS SUPPORTING ASSANGE
- Embargoed: 31st August 2012 13:00
- Location: United Kingdom
- Country: United Kingdom
- Topics: Legal System,Politics,People
- Reuters ID: LVA5WDLZ82MSZ9ENC7SEYLFPU0FM
- Story Text: The diplomatic standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange escalated on Wednesday (August 15) after Britain threatened to raid Ecuador's embassy in London if Quito did not hand over Assange, who has been taking refuge there for two months.
The Ecuadorian government bristled at the threat and said it would announce its decision on Assange's asylum request on Thursday (August 16) at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT).
Quito said such an action would be considered a "hostile and intolerable act" as well as a violation of its sovereignty.
"Under British law we can give them a week's notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection," a Foreign Office spokesman said.
"We want to be very clear, we're not a British colony. The colonial times are over," Ecuadorian 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 said.
Ecuador, whose government is part of a left-leaning bloc of nations in South America, called for meetings of regional foreign ministers and the hemispheric Organization of American States to rally support in its complaint against Britain.
The embassy, near London's famed Harrods department store, was under tight surveillance on Thursday, with police officers manning the entrance and several others patrolling around the red-brick building.
A group of Assange supporters who responded to a rallying call by WikiLeaks on Twitter gathered outside to demand Assange's freedom.
The Australian former hacker has been in the embassy for eight weeks since losing a legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he has been accused of rape and sexual assault by two WikiLeaks supporters.
Assange fears Sweden could send him on to the United States, where he believes authorities want to punish him for publishing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks in 2010 in a major embarrassment for Washington.
Even if he were granted asylum, Assange has little chance of leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London without being arrested.
The Ecuadorian government has said it wants to avoid Assange's extradition to Sweden, but approval of asylum would offer no legal protection in Britain where police will arrest him once they get a chance.
Ecuador's leader Correa is a self-declared enemy of "corrupt" media and U.S. "imperialism", and apparently hit it off with Assange during a TV interview the Australian did with him in May.
Correa joked then with Assange that he had joined "the club of the persecuted".
Some, though, find Assange's connection with Ecuador odd, given that Correa is labeled a persecutor of the media by journalism freedom groups.
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