Ecuador has granted Julian Assange asylum two months after he took refuge in its London embassy, the foreign minister announced in a press conference this morning in Quito.
Assange holed up in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sexual offenses. Assange is subject to arrest by police if he sets foot on British soil, Reuters reported.
(Here's the Ecuadorean government's full statement on Assange in Spanish.)
GlobalPost's Simeon Tegel spoke with Cesar Ricaurte, executive director of Fundamedios, a Quito-based nonprofit journalism group, who dismissed the decision to grant asylum as a "PR exercise" by the Correa administration. Fundamedios and other freedom-of-expression and human rights groups have accused Ecuador's government of having the worst record on press freedom in the Americas, after Cuba.
"Correa is using this case to pose as a champion of media freedom," he told GlobalPost.
He added that Assange's asylum claim appeared "rather weak" and that in reportedly granting it, Ecuador had shown a lack of respect towards the British and Swedish justice systems.
In a televised statement on Thursday, Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that the Ecuadorean government had "received a written notice from British authorities that they would "assault" the country's embassy in London if Ecuadorean authorities failed to hand over Assange to British authorities," CNN reported.
Patino added, "We are not a British colony. Those times are passed."
A representative for Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office responded telling CNN, "The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offenses and we... remain determined to fulfill this obligation." The spokesperson added, "We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."