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Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold up flags of the city of Quito in front of a Julian Assange poster during yesterday's march.
Demonstrators shout slogans as they hold up flags of the city of Quito in front of a Julian Assange poster during yesterday's march.
Image: Dolores Ochoa/AP

Ecuador says attempts to storm embassy 'would be suicide'

The people of Ecuador have rallied behind president Rafael Correa after he granted political asylum to Julian Assange.
Aug 21st 2012, 8:39 AM 6,031 50

THE PRESIDENT OF ECUADOR has warned the United Kingdom that it would be committing ‘political suicide’ by stripping his country’s embassy of its diplomatic status and entering it to arrest Julian Assange.

In an interview with state television – his first since granting political asylum to the WikiLeaks founder last week – Rafael Correa criticised the UK for its threat to temporarily remove the building’s special status, under which it is considered beyond the jurisdiction of British police.

“While the United Kingdom hasn’t retracted nor apologised, the danger still exists,” the BBC quotes Correa as saying.

From a diplomatic point of view, he said, it would “suicide for Great Britain” to do so.

“Then people could enter their diplomatic premises all around the world and they wouldn’t be able to say a thing,” he added.

Sky News added a further quote where Correa said the development would “be a precedent that would allow later on for the diplomatic premises [of the UK] in other territories to be violated in every corner of the planet.”

While Assange has been granted asylum, he cannot leave the embassy to travel to Ecuador because doing so would require him to pass through areas under British police jurisdiction.

UK authorities remain committed to arresting Assange in order to honour a European arrest warrant issued by Sweden. Assange has lost two Supreme Court cases seeking to avoid his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on outstanding sexual assault charges.

March in support

Correa has been hailed domestically for his bold stance, with Reuters reporting that hundreds had taken to the streets of Ecuador’s capital, Quito, yesterday to march in his support.

“We’re here to support the timely and correct decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange and also to reject the hostile reaction of Great Britain in cahoots with United States,” one lawyer who joined the march said.

Correa said he may enlist the assistance of the United Nations if it is needed to secure safe passage for Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London’s Knightsbridge to the country itself.

Reuters said another option was the International Court of Justice, which could force Britain to allow Ecuadorian protectees to be given unfettered travel to that country.

A meeting of the Organisation of American States on Friday may see further support for Correa, with other Latin American leaders expected to support Correa’s opposition to any British threat to overlook the special status of embassies.

That status is enshrined in the 1961 Vienna Convention, and sees countries treat others’ embassies as if they were a legitimate part of that country.

Read: Assange calls on US to drop ‘witch-hunt against WikiLeaks’

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Gavan Reilly

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