Ecuador Says Threat Is Made to Get Assange From Embassy

August 16, 2012

By WILLIAM NEUMAN, The New York Times
CARACAS, Venezuela — The government of Ecuador said Wednesday that the British authorities had threatened to barge into the country’s embassy in London if officials did not hand over Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who is holed up there in an asylum bid.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño made the statement at a news conference in Quito. He added that the government of President Rafael Correa had reached a decision on whether to grant asylum to Mr. Assange and would announce it Thursday morning.

“Today we have received from the United Kingdom an explicit threat in writing that they could assault our embassy in London if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange,” Mr. Patiño said, adding defiantly, “We are not a British colony.”

Mr. Assange arrived in the embassy on June 19, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women.

Those close to Mr. Assange have also said that he fears being charged with crimes in the United States for the release in 2010 of thousands of secret documents and diplomatic cables relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to American relations with other governments.

Under diplomatic protocol, Mr. Assange was thought to be off limits while in the embassy. But the BBC reported Wednesday that British officials had raised the notion of revoking the diplomatic immunity of the Ecuadorean Embassy, allowing British officials to enter.

Even if Mr. Correa does decide to grant asylum, Mr. Assange may still remain stuck there because the British government has vowed to arrest him as soon as he emerges.

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