On Thursday, the foreign minister of Ecuador announced that the country has agreed to grant asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. The announcement defied the threats by the government of Britain to raid the embassy and have Assange extradited back to Sweden. Assange is wanted by Swedish authorities for questioning regarding alleged sexual molestation and rape cases.
Richard Patino, the foreign minister said in a long statement that was televised, that Ecuador had decided to give Assange political asylum. The statement also criticized both the UK and U.S. governments for not protecting the WikiLeaks founder from political persecution.
Patino said the countries that had a right to help protect Assange had failed him. Patino also said that Assange was the victim of a political persecution because if he were extradited he would not be given a fair trial.
Assange, a native of Australia, has been in the Ecuadoran Embassy since June. While the announcement was made, a crowd gathered in front of the embassy. One protester was arrested and taken away.
The government of the UK called the decision by Ecuador to grant asylum to Assange regrettable. Authorities in the UK say the Assange’s asylum is a violation of his current probation.
However, Assange fears that if he were extradited, he would be turned over to authorities in the U.S., which condemned the publication of documents that were classified, by the WikiLeaks site. Assange fears he would be charged in the U.S. for espionage. Authorities in the U.S. have declined to comment on Assange’s comments.
The UK government said they had the right to raid the embassy after a week’s notice. The WikiLeaks site condemned the threat by the UK government calling it an assault of unprecedented proportion against those who seek asylum worldwide.