(File) The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange, center, gives a statement to the media after his extradition hearing at the high court in London. Ecuador accused Britain of threatening to storm its London embassy to arrest Assange after the UK issued a stern warning to the South American nation ahead of its decision on an asylum bid by the WikiLeaks founder. AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Ecuador announced on Thursday it would grant political asylum to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who sought refuge in the country’s embassy in London to avert extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of rape and sexual assault.
“It is a significant victory for myself and my people. Things will probably get more stressful now,” the Australian ex-hacker told staff at the embassy — his home for the last two months.
Equadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino said his government reached its decision after Britain, Sweden and the United States refused to provide guarantees that Assange would not be extradited to the US, where he fears trial for the release of secret diplomatic cables on his anti-secrecy website, WikiLeaks, in July 2010.
“If he were extradited to the US, Mr Assange would not receive a fair trial,” Patino said.
Patino also accused Britain of making an “open threat” to “storm” the embassy to arrest Assange.
The British foreign office termed the decision “disappointing” and a spokeswoman said: “Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian government’s decision does not change that.” Key facts about Ecuador and its President Rafael Correa
“Should we receive a request for safe passage for Mr Assange, after granting asylum, this would be refused,” Britain’s charge d’affaires told Ecuador’s government.
Assange was arrested in London in December 2010 on a warrant from Sweden. Britain ordered his extradition to the European country after he exhausted all legal appeals. Assange mother claims US behind embassy 'raid' threat