The Ecuadorian government has granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum, in a move that is expected to intensify tensions between British and Ecuadorian officials, as Britain has previously made it clear that it will not let him leave the country or travel to Ecuador.On Thursday August 16, in a speech which was broadcasted live from the British news channels, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced that the South American country has decided to grant Assange political asylum.
He said that there are fears that UK’s vow to extradite Assange to Sweden is a cover for sending him to the US, where he is wanted over the WikiLeaks revelation of the US diplomatic cables, which created massive embarrassment for Washington in 2010.
"The Ecuadorian government, after carrying out a fair and objective analysis of the situation presented by Mr. Assange and evaluating his oral and written arguments, has decided that there's cause to presume that he could be the target of political persecution or that such persecution could happen if no timely and necessary measures are taken to prevent it," said Patino.
Assange, who should be awaiting extradition to Sweden to face sexual abuse charges after a British court ruling against him, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy since June 19 and has applied for political asylum in the country.
The British police have besieged the Ecuadorian embassy with police vans surrounding the building and special forces blocking the embassy’s entrance following the threat by the British government to use force, if necessary, to detain Assange.
However, the Ecuadorian embassy said on its website that the siege of the embassy building by the British police “is a clear breach of international law and the protocols set out in the Vienna Convention.”
Meanwhile, the British police have arrested some of the Assange’s supporters, who protested outside the embassy in London’s neighborhood of Knightsbridge, as clashes between the police and the supporters of the WikiLeaks founder rise.