Ecuador grants political asylum to Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Ecuador granted political asylum to Julian Assange on Thursday, ratcheting up tension in a standoff with Britain which has warned it could revoke the diplomatic status of Quito’s embassy in London to allow the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder.

The high-profile Australian former hacker has been holed up inside the red-brick embassy in central London for eight weeks since he lost a legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape allegations.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said he feared for the safety and rights of Assange which is why he said his country had decided to grant him asylum.

“Ecuador has decided to grant political asylum to Julian Assange,” Patino told a news conference in Quito.

Ecuador’s decision takes what has become an international soap opera to new heights since Assange first angered the United States and its allies by publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his WikiLeaks website.

Outside the embassy near London’s famed Harrods department store, supporters made the announcement over a loudspeaker to cheers and clapping from protesters who had gathered outside the building in support of Assange.

Protesters shouted: “The people united will never be defeated!”, bearing Ecuador flags and holding posters showing Assange’s head that read “no extradition”.

Before the decision was announced, Britain said it could use a little-known piece of legislation to strip Ecuador’s embassy of its diplomatic status so that Assange could be detained.

“It is too early to say when or if Britain will revoke the Ecuadorean embassy’s diplomatic status,” a Foreign Office spokesman said before Ecuador’s decision was announced. “Giving asylum doesn’t fundamentally change anything.”

“We have a legal duty to extradite Mr Assange. There is a law that says we have to extradite him to Sweden. We are going to have to fulfill that law.”

The Ecuadorean government has bristled at Britain’s warning. It’s foreign minister said Britain was threatening Ecuador with a “hostile and intolerable act” and accused London of blackmail.

Britain’s threat to withdraw diplomatic status from the Ecuadorean embassy drew criticism from some former diplomats who said it could lead to similar moves against British embassies.

“I think the Foreign Office have slightly overreached themselves here,” Britain’s former ambassador to Moscow, Tony Brenton, told the BBC.

“If we live in a world where governments can arbitrarily revoke immunity and go into embassies then the life of our diplomats and their ability to conduct normal business in places like Moscow where I was and North Korea becomes close to impossible.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…