ECUADOR HAS GRANTED Wikileaks founder Julian Assange political asylum, two months after he took refuge in its London embassy.
Assange started hiding out in the Ecuadorean embassy back in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces charges for alleged sexual assault. Ecuador's foreign minister Richard Patino today said he believed that Assange's fears of political persecution were legitimate, and announced that the country had granted the Wikileaks founder asylum.
"We have decided to grant political asylum to Mr. Assange," said Patino. "We can state that he can be politically prosecuted."
This decision was celebrated outside Ecuador's London embassy by Assange's supporters.
While Patino accused the UK of threatening to enter its embassy to arrest Assange, British officials have reaffirmed that they will go ahead to try to secure Assange's extradition.
Ed Geraghty, the foreign policy spokesperson for the UK Pirate Party, commented on Ecuador's decision today to grant Assange political asylum.
"It may be a positive step for an Ecuador that has itself pursued crackdowns on private media and public dissent; however I hope that this is not an attempt to score political points, but a legitimate humanitarian move," Geraghty said.
"As I have said before, regardless of whether we like the decision or not, the principle of asylum must be supported. The decision to grant asylum was Ecuador's alone. It would be disastrous if the British, American or Swedish governments attempted to interfere with a vital process in protecting human rights globally."
"Assange may still be subject to arrest by the police on leaving the embassy for breaching the terms of his bail. If Assange is arrested and surrendered to the Swedish authorities despite asylum having been granted, I hope it is possible for him to receive a fair hearing on the matters of which he is accused." µ