QUITO – Ecuador said Wednesday that the British government has raised the possibility of forcibly removing Julian Assange from the Andean nation’s embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been holed up since June awaiting Quito’s decision on his bid for political asylum.
Ambassador Ana Alban was officially advised that British authorities “could assault” the diplomatic mission if Assange does not surrender to them, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño told a press conference here.
The British position is a “hostile and unfriendly act” that violates “express international norms,” the minister said, vowing a decisive reaction to any violation of those norms.
“The unauthorized entry of any British authorities into the premises of the embassy of Ecuador would be a flagrant violation,” Patiño said.
Diplomatic missions enjoy “immunities” and may not be entered by force for the purpose of arresting someone seeking political asylum, the foreign minister said.
He said Ecuador will request emergency meetings of the Union of South American Nations and the Organization of American States to address “this threat” to a Latin American country.
Ecuador will not retreat from the principles of sovereignty, adherence to international norms and respect for human rights, Patiño said.
“We are not a British colony,” he said, adding that Ecuador’s decision on Assange’s asylum request will be announced Thursday.
The Australian citizen sought refuge at the Ecuadorian mission after losing a long battle in the British courts to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct.
Assange, who denies the accusations, fears that once he is in Swedish custody, U.S. prosecutors will indict him for espionage and Washington will pressure Stockholm into handing him over.
The WikiLeaks founder had been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010.
Politicians and pundits in the United States called for Assange to be prosecuted – or even assassinated – after WikiLeaks disseminated thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables as well as a video that showed an American military helicopter crew killing a Reuters photographer and several other civilians in Iraq.
Former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who became famous in 18998 for indicting Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, is among Assange’s legal advisers. EFE