By Shiryn Ghermezian, EnStarz | Aug 16, 2012 10:55 AM EDT
Ecuador's foreign minister announced on Aug. 16 that his country has granted WikiLeaks founders Julian Assange asylum in midst of the rape and sexual molestation charges he faces, according to Yahoo! News.
"The government of Ecuador, faithful to its tradition of protecting those who seek refuge in its territory or in its diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange," said Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino at a news conference, according to The New York Times.
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"The countries that have a right to protect Assange have failed him," Patino said. "[He] is victim of political persecution. ... If Assange is extradited to U.S., he will not receive a fair trial...Asylum is a fundamental human right."
For the past two months, Assange has been hiding out and living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London waiting for a decision.
The announcement by Patino came in defiance of the British government and their threat to invade the Ecuadorean Embassy in London and take Assange to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioned in relation to accusations of rape and sexual molestation of former WikiLeaks volunteers, according to Yahoo!
On Wednesday, Ricardo Patino, announced the following, reported by ABC News:
"Today we've received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange."
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to Assange was "regrettable," according to ABC.
"British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden," an office spokesman said. "We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorean government's decision this afternoon does not change that."
The WikiLeaks site responded on Thursday morning with the following statement:
"The UK threatened to forcefully enter the Ecuadorian embassy in London and arrest Julian Assange...This claim is without basis...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."
The statement continued on to call the UK threat "a hostile and extreme act...and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum seekers worldwide."
Aside from fearing questioning by Sweden, ABC reported that Assange is also concerned about the possibility of Sweden turning him over to the United States after they are done speaking with him. In the U.S., Assange may be charged with espionage and perhaps the death penalty, after he leaked thousands of top secret U.S. government documents onto the web for public viewing.
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