Julian Assange granted asylum by Ecuador
Published: 16 Aug 12 13:53 CET
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, after having waited in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for weeks, will be granted asylum to Ecuador, the country's authorities announced on Thursday.
After weeks inside embassy premises since his request for diplomatic protection at the end of June, the Australian national received word on Thursday that he will be granted asylum to the South American country.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, said at a press conference that Ecuador sees it as imperative to offer asylum to those seeking it due to political persecution.
"We believe Julian Assange's fears are legitimate - he could face political persecution," Patino said during the press conference.
Sweden however rejected the claim that Assange's human rights may be violated should he be extradited to Sweden.
"Our firm legal and constitutional system guarantees the rights of each and everyone. We firmly reject any accusations to the contrary," foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted shortly after the press conference.
According to British national broadcaster BBC, the announcement was watched live by Assange and embassy staff in a link to the press conference from Quito.
Shortly after the announcement, Assange told the BBC that being granted asylum by Ecuador is a "significant victory"
The growing risk of a diplomatic furore loomed ever closer on Thursday with police staying close outside the South American country's embassy in London, where Assange is holed up, after Ecuador slammed Britain for threatening to storm the building to arrest him.
Ahead of the announcement just after 2pm CET on Thursday, around a dozen policemen, some wearing stab vests, were positioned outside the embassy in the exclusive Knightsbridge district of London near the Harrods department store.
The British Foreign Office remains adamant however that the country's obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden will be carried out.
"Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal UK authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden," the Foreign Office tweeted shortly after the announcement.
"We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government's decision this afternoon does not change that."
"We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act, " tweeted the Foreign Office.
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