You can find ongoing coverage of the Assange case and WikiLeaks here.
On the morning of August 16, in the face of rumors that British authorities were considering storming the Ecuadorean embassy in London to arrest Julian Assange, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that his country will grant the WikiLeaks founder diplomatic asylum. He declared that his government endorsed the “fears” expressed by Assange that he could face political persecution if sent to Sweden, and that such asylum would protect him from the possibility of being extradited to the United States.
Ecuador expressed its hope that the United Kingdom would respect its decision and allow Assange—now a political refugee—the right to leave for Ecuador. Assange has been at the embassy since June 19.
Patiño read from a list of points detailing the foundation for the asylum request by Assange, who he described as “an award-winning communications professional” known “internationally for his struggle for freedom of expression, press freedom and human rights in general.” He cited “strong evidence” that Assange faced possible “retaliation by the country or countries that produced the information,” revealed by Cablegate, noting that such retaliation “may endanger [his] safety, integrity, and even his life.” He said that “given an extradition to the United States of America, Mr. Assange would not have a fair trial, could be tried by special courts or military” and could be the victim of “cruel and degrading” treatment.
Patiño, like many of Assange’s supporters, also acknowledged that Assange must answer for the allegations of sexual assault that have been leveled against him, but added that Swedish prosecutors have undermined his procedural rights during their investigation. Ultimately, he said, “if Mr. Assange is reduced to custody in Sweden (as is customary in this country), [it] would start a chain of events that would prevent the further protective measures taken to avoid possible extradition to a third country.”
Prior to the announcement, Ecuador had approached the Swedish authorities and urged them to come to its embassy in London to question Assange. But when asked to provide assurance that Assange would not be extradited to the United States, Sweden refused.
The British Foreign Office responded, “We are determined to carry out our legal obligation to see Julian Assange extradited to Sweden.” It further declared, “We will not allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the UK, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so. The UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum. It is far from a universally accepted concept: the United Kingdom is not a party to any legal instruments, which require us to recognize the grant of diplomatic asylum by a foreign embassy in this country.”
In anticipation of controversy, the government of Ecuador laid out a slew of conventions, treaties and other tenets of international law going back decades, which gives it the right and authority to grant refugee status to Assange, among them, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, which gives people the right to seek and enjoy political asylum in any country, for political reasons, as well as the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which forbids the transferring of an asylum seeker to a country where he or she fears persecution for his political views.