Julian Assange is still hiding out at Ecuador’s London Embassy, seeking asylum, but that may end soon if the UK decides to raid the building.According to the BBC, that’s a real possibility. Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino told a conference in Quito tonight that UK officials have given the embassy a “threat”:
“Today we received from the United Kingdom an express threat, in writing, that they might storm our Embassy in London if we don’t hand over Julian Assange.”
Patino also said that Ecuador planned to reject the threat, and said they would be “forced to respond” if the embassy is raided. According to Michael van Poppel of BNO News, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has said the UK threat is “absolutely unacceptable and a threat to all countries in the world.”
It would be extremely unusual for a host state to enter a foreign Embassy for an arrest without permission, and past violations have been major diplomatic incidents. It is believed that the UK could use a law known as the “Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987” to enable the extradition of Assange, which would effectively revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy.
Ecuador is due to announce whether it will grant Assange asylum at 7am Ecuador time (8am EST) tomorrow. Yesterday it denied rumours that it had already decided Assange would receive asylum. Even if the embassy isn’t stormed, however, Assange may face difficulty escaping the country without being arrested.
UPDATE: Kim Zetter of Wired offers a little more explanation of the legal issues here:
Under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” However, the second clause of the article states that “the right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.”
Assange is due to be extradited to Sweden for sex crimes — a distinctly unpolitical crime. However, his supporters argue that once extradited there he will in turn be extradited for the political crimes conducted by Wikileaks.
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