Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Julian Assange Row: Ecuador backed by South America

Julian Assange Row: Ecuador backed by South America


19 August 2012

Ecuador's decision to grant Wikileaks founder Julian
Assange asylum has been backed by foreign ministers from
countries across South America.

A document agreed at the Union of South American Nations
meeting in Ecuador said it supported the country "in the
face of the threat" to its London embassy, where he has
taken refuge.

The UK has said it could potentially lift the embassy's
diplomatic status.

Mr Assange faces extradition to Sweden over sexual
assault claims he denies.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has suggested Mr
Assange could co-operate with Sweden if assurances are
given that there would be no extradition to a third

Supporters of Mr Assange - who on Sunday urged the US to
end its "witch-hunt" against the Wikileaks site - claim
he could face persecution and even the death penalty if
sent there.

'Explicit threat'

After Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino finished
reading the final declaration from the Union of South
American Nations (Unasur) summit, he joined hands with
his fellow foreign ministers and raised them aloft.

The BBC's Will Grant said it was a symbolic but
important show of unity in a region which considers the
government's approach over Mr Assange to have been
colonialist and threatening.

Ecuador has described a letter from the British

government drawing attention to the Diplomatic and

Consular Premises Act 1987 as "intolerable" and an

"explicit threat".

The act could allow the UK to lift the diplomatic status

of Ecuador's embassy in London to allow police to enter

the building to arrest Mr Assange for breaching his bail


Mr Assange has been at the embassy since 19 June. Five

days earlier, the UK's Supreme Court dismissed his bid

to reopen an appeal against his extradition to Sweden.

He had been on bail while the case was being considered

and, after the Supreme Court result, was given a further

two-week grace period.

It is an established international convention that local

police and security forces are not permitted to enter an

embassy, unless they have the express permission of the


That principle was backed by the ministers at the Unasur

summit. In their final document, they agreed on a series

of general principles, including as "the inviolability

of local diplomatic missions and consular offices".

'War on whistle-blowers'

Our correspondent said that - in the context of the UK's
perceived heavy-handed approach to the recent question
of Argentina's renewed claim over the Falkland Islands -
the British government's reputation in South America was
undoubtedly being affected by this stand-off.

But the last point of agreement in the Unasur document
called for calm, urging the parties involved to
"continue the dialogue and negotiation to find a
mutually acceptable solution".

On Sunday, Mr Assange, 41, used his first public
statement since entering the embassy - delivered from a
balcony - to call on the US to stop its "war on whistle-

The US is carrying out an investigation into Wikileaks,
which has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables,
embarrassing several governments and international

In 2010, two female ex-Wikileaks volunteers accused Mr
Assange, an Australian citizen, of committing sexual
offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture.

Mr Assange claims the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated.


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