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Ecuador Grants WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Asylum

Categories: Latin America, Ecuador, United Kingdom, Breaking News, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech

After much anticipation [1], Ecuador announced it will grant political asylum [2] to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño made the announcement at 7am local time in Ecuador, 1pm London time, on August 16, 2012. As Justice for Assange [3] explains:

Assange is currently under the protection of the Ecuadorean embassy. He has requested asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution, torture or death in the United States in connection with the publication of truthful information of matters of interest to the public through his work with WikiLeaks.

Citizen journalist James Albury (@alburyj) [4] has been live-streaming [5] from outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

The Twitter account for Justice for Assange (@swedenvsassange [6]) wrote:

@swedenvsassange: [7] A Latin American country of 13 million people has taken a decision to protect the right to know of the entire world's population. #assange [8]

Press stand opposite the Ecuadoran Embassy in London on August 16, 2012. Photo by See Li, copyright Demotix [9]

Press stand opposite the Ecuadoran Embassy in London on August 16, 2012. Photo by See Li, copyright Demotix.

The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (@foreignoffice [10]) reacted immediately to the announcement:

@foreignoffice [11]: We are disappointed by the statement from Ecuador’s Foreign Minister that #Ecuador [12] has offered political asylum to Julian#Assange [13].

@foreignoffice [14]: Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal UK authorities are under binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden

@foreignoffice [15]: We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government's decision this afternoon does not change that. #Assange [13]

@foreignoffice [16]: We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act.#Assange [13]

In response to these tweets, WikiLeaks (@wikileaks [17]) wrote:

@wikileaks [18]: Which is of course just spin. The UK is under a binding obligation to recognize asylum, the rights of refugees and its other UN agreements.

Netizens from Ecuador and all over the world have been discussing the matter since yesterday, August 15, when Ecuador received a letter from the UK. Patiño said on Wednesday, as reported by the BBC [19]: “Today we received from the United Kingdom an express threat, in writing, that they might storm our embassy in London if we don't hand over Julian Assange.” WikiLeaks released [1] a statement [20] on this threat, pointing out that:

Any transgression against the sanctity of the embassy is a unilateral and shameful act, and a violation of the Vienna Convention, which protects embassies worldwide.

After news broke of this letter, Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror [21]) urged people in London to support Assange:

@ioerror [21]: Are you in London? Go to the Ecuadorian embassy to support Julian Assange,#wikileaks [22] and the right of asylum seekers everywhere!

Meanwhile, human rights and foreign policy writer and analyst Josh Shahryar (@JShahryar [23]) tweeted:

@JShahryar [24]: Not a Julian #Assange [13] fan, but the British threats to storm the Ecuadoran Embassy in London is shameful and disgusting beyond words.

A policeman asks the man to move further away from the Ecuadoran Embassy on August 16, 2012. Photo by See Li, copyright Demotix [9]

A policeman asks the man to move further away from the Ecuadoran Embassy on August 16, 2012. Photo by See Li, copyright Demotix

After Ecuador announced it would grant asylum to Assange, user @robertito1991 [25] [es] from Guayaquil, Ecuador, wrote:

@robertito1991 [26]: Ecuador [12] es el país mas famoso del mundo x darle una cucharada de su propia medicina a USA y a UK #AsiloAssange [27] @LegionJJ [28] @anonopshispano [29]

@robertito1991 [26] [es]: Ecuador [12] is the most famous country in the world for giving the USA and the UK some of their own medicine #AsiloAssange [27] @LegionJJ [28] @anonopshispano [29]

But not all Ecuadorians are happy with the news, and some recalled [30] President Rafael Correa's tumultuous [31] relationship with the media, like @GiannyMoc [32] [es] and Fer Cascante (@FerCascante [33]) [es]:

@FerCascante [34]: Por Dios en que pais vivimos dan #AsiloAssange [27] y no se respeta la libertad de prensa, que contradiccion!

@FerCascante [34] [es]: For God's sake, in what country do we live in? They give #AsiloAssange [27] asylum to Assange and they don't respect freedom of the press, what a contradiction!

Others, like Elías Suárez (@Slashzer [35]) [es], are suspicious:

@Slashzer [36]: Algo quiere Correa que Assange tiene, no lo duden.

@Slashzer [36] [es]: Correa wants something that Assange has, no doubt about that.

Yet others are celebrating and congratulating the Ecuadorian government, like David Jimenez Abad (@DavidJimenezA93 [37]) [es], from Cuenca, Ecuador:

@DavidJimenezA93 [38]: Bien por Ecuador al otorgar #AsiloAssange [27] y no ceder a presiones internacionales

@DavidJimenezA93 [38] [es]: It is good that Ecuador is granting asylum to Assange #AsiloAssange [27] and not giving in to international pressure.

As security researcher Dillan Beresford (@d1n [39]) points out, this case is not over:

@d1n [40]: It's not over yet. Political asylum *should* but does not guarantee Julian Assange safe passage into Ecuador.

The Guardian [2]‘s live coverage recently reported that “Sweden has summoned Ecuador's ambassador to Stockholm, calling the granting of asylum to Assange ‘unacceptable.'”