Asylum for Julian Assange became official today at 1:00 pm, London time.
Yesterday (15 Aug 2012) the British government sent written notice to Ecuador’s government that if Assange is not surrendered, then England can revoke the diplomatic status of Ecuador’s embassy, so that British police can storm it and grab Mr. Assange.
The embassy has no wall or security fence. It is located in a plain building of private apartments on a narrow street in the Knightsbridge area of central London. You can tour the street at Google maps…
Today supporters of Assange gathered outside the embassy and clashed with the scores of police, who arrested three of them.
A British embassy official in Quito delivered the threatening letter directly to Ecuador’s government. Back in London, the Foreign Office initially refused to release the letter to reporters, but relented under pressure. The letter in Spanish reads, in part:
“We must arrest Mr. Assange and extradite him to Sweden. Should you grant him asylum, and then request safe passage for him, we will refuse it. We consider Assange’s use of diplomatic premises to be incompatible with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and not sustainable. Under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, we have a legal basis to arrest Mr. Assange inside your embassy. If you cannot resolve the issue of Mr. Assange’s presence on your premises, then this route is open to us.”
(NOTE: If England decides to revoke the embassy’s diplomatic status so that British police can attack it, then under the 1987 law, England must give seven days advance warning to Ecuador. Many people have sought asylum in Western embassies. Some have lived there for many years. The West considers this to be morally and legally justified under "international law" unless a nation is not a Western ally, e.g. Ecuador. On 4 April 2011, Wikileaks published US diplomatic cables proving that Heather Hodges, the US ambassador to Ecuador, had conspired to overthrow president Correa. The following day, Ecuador expelled Ms. Hodges.)
Yesterday in Quito, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño gave a televised address saying, “We received an express threat in writing that the British government might storm our embassy in London if we don't hand over Julian Assange. The letter was improper of a democratic, civilized and law-abiding country. If the measure is enacted, then Ecuador will regard it as an unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act against our sovereignty, and Ecuador will be forced to respond. We are not a British colony.”
Mr. Patiño also said Ecuador will call an emergency session of the Organization of American States and the Union of South American Nations to discuss the British threat against its sovereignty.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign office said Britain remained "determined" to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden.
On 16 August, WikiLeaks released a statement. “A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum seekers worldwide.”
Sweden’s right-wing government condemned Ecuador, calling the asylum "unacceptable,” and summoning Ecuador’s ambassador for interrogation.