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UK Threatens to “Assault” Ecuador Embassy in London

I went to sleep with the Assange asylum incident on my mind and woke up this morning to find that it is not only a top news story, but a very tense news story. While checking our email around 9 a.m. Gary burst out, “Ecuador has granted Julian Assange asylum and the UK is threatening to storm the Ecuador embassy in London!”

Apparently we were wining and dining with friends Wednesday night and missed the heated exchange between UK officials and Ricardo Patino, foreign minister of Ecuador.  After Patino announced Wednesday that Ecuador would grant asylum and announce it Thursday morning, he said that he received a warning in writing from the UK, saying they would ‘assault’ the Ecuadorian embassy if Assange wasn’t turned over to them.

CNN quotes Patino as saying, “We are not a British colony.  Those times are passed.”

The UK replied that while they want to find a solution that is acceptable to both sides, the UK has an obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden for questioning in sexual misconduct charges.

Decide for yourself whether or not the letter was delivering a threat.  Then post your opinions about this here.

The **actual wording of that UK statement, as reported August 16, 2012, by Mark Weisbrot in the UK Guardian, is shown below along with the first few paragraphs of his article.

Weisbrot’s article, entitled, “Julian Assange asylum: Ecuador is right to stand up to the US,” began with this line:  “The United States would paint itself as a promoter of human rights, but any right to make that claim is long gone.”

Under an AFP/Getty Images photo of Correa was this statement: ‘Correa made this decision because it was the only ethical thing to do’.

Here are the first few paragraphs from the article:

“Ecuador has now made its decision: to grant political asylum to Julian Assange. This comes in the wake of an incident that should dispel remaining doubts about the motives behind the UK/Swedish attempts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. On Wednesday, the UK government made an unprecedented threat to invade Ecuador’s embassy if Assange is not handed over. Such an assault would be so extreme in violating international law and diplomatic conventions that it is difficult to even find an example of a democratic government even making such a threat, let alone carrying it out.

“When Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patiño, in an angry and defiant response, released the written threats to the public, the UK government tried to backtrack and say it wasn’t a threat to invade the embassy (which is another country’s sovereign territory). But what else can we possibly make of this wording from a letter delivered by a British official?

**”You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act   1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr. Assange in the current premises of the embassy. We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange’s presence in your premises, this is an open option for us.”

“Is there anyone in their right mind who believes that the UK government would make such an unprecedented threat if this were just about an ordinary foreign citizen wanted for questioning – not criminal charges or a trial – by a foreign government?
“Ecuador’s decision to grant political asylum to Assange was both predictable and reasonable. But it is also a ground-breaking case that has considerable historic significance.”

The article then continues with an analysis of the situation, including Assange’s fear of persecuation if extradited to Sweden, Sweden’s odd behavior in saying their authorities don’t have to question Assange in Sweden, then receiving an invitation from Ecuador to come to the Ecuadorian embassy in London to question him, then refusing to come but not offering any explanation as to why they don’t come.  Very curious.

Weisbrot discusses the importance of this incident, saying it may be the first occasion in which political asylum has been given by a democratic government to a person trying to escape U.S. political persecution.

He shares his beliefs that and examples of human rights have been trampled upon consistently in the U.S. Read the article in full here.

CNN has a timeline of Julian Assange’s asylum.

Curious about the Ecuadorian perspective
on this matter?  The Spanish-language news source El Universo ran this article online today.  If you are interested, read my English translation of a Google translation.

There’s also a 1 hour, 23 minute video at the Ecuador embassy in London.  It will give you a good idea of what went on at the embassy before, during and directly after Ecuador’s announcement that Assange had been granted asylum.  It’s in British English, a little hard to follow, so I’ve typed up what I think he’s saying.  Read my notes.

Or you can watch and listen for yourself.

Post your comments here.