Wikileaks founder Julian Assange granted asylum by Ecuador

Ecuador says Assange would face a genuine threat of deportation to the US if the UK hands him over to Sweden, which wants to question the Wikileaks founder over allegations of sexual coercion

Ecuador has agreed to grant asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

The country's foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, made the announcement on Thursday afternoon, saying Assange faced a real risk of deportation to the US if he were sent from the UK to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual coercion . He said Assange was unlikely to face a fair trial in the US.

"Mr Assange could be susceptible to great danger and his personal security threatened," Patiño said, noting that neither the UK nor Sweden had given any promise that Assange would not be sent to the US. He also said the US had refused to give guarantees about Assange's safety if he were to be sent there.

Assange has been holed up in Ecuador's Knightsbridge embassy since June, when he lost his fight against extradition to Sweden. The Wikileaks founder has not been charged with anything, but a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden means the UK is obliged to send him there.

Assange fears that Sweden would then hand him over to the US, where he may face charges relating to the Cablegate leaks of 2010 — no charges have been revealed yet, but if they do exist, they would have been pre-prepared then sealed.

Which way out?

Patiño said Ecuador had requested safe passage for Assange out of the UK. However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told ZDNet earlier on Thursday that the UK would not agree to such a request.

The Metropolitan Police have already said they will arrest him as soon as he steps out the door, for breaking his bail conditions.

On Wednesday, the Ecuadorian government said the UK had threatened to revoke the embassy's diplomatic status , a move which would allow the police to go in and arrest Assange.

Patiño said on Thursday afternoon that the UK government was "manifesting its open intention to resort to... the use of force as a method of resolving the situation, which had until now been dealt with in a friendly and diplomatic manner".

He added that he had asked Latin American regional bodies to come up with a regional response to "make it clear that this kind of impunity should not be allowed".