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British raid threat ‘hostile and extreme’: WikiLeaks

Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks on Thursday condemned a British threat to raid the Ecuador embassy in London where its founder is holed up as a "hostile and extreme" assault on asylum-seekers.

British raid threat 'hostile and extreme': WikiLeaks
British police outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

“WikiLeaks condemns in the strongest possible terms the UK’s resort to intimidation,” it said in a statement.

“A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum-seekers worldwide.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian national, has been in the embassy since June in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over sex assault claims.

The Australian fears Stockholm will turn him over to the United States where he could face espionage and conspiracy charges over revelations by his website.

Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino earlier said Britain had threatened to “storm our embassy if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange”.

WikiLeaks said the embassy was currently surrounded by police “in a menacing show of force”.

“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,” it said.

“This threat is designed to preempt Ecuador’s imminent decision on whether it will grant Julian Assange political asylum, and to bully Ecuador into a decision that is agreeable to the United Kingdom and its allies.

“We remind the public that these extraordinary actions are being taken to detain a man who has not been charged with any crime in any country,” it added.

A British Foreign Office spokesman has said police were ready to arrest Assange for breaching the terms of his bail granted in 2010.

“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 spokesman said in London.

WikiLeaks noted that the tougher stance by London coincided with British Foreign Secretary William Hague standing in for Prime Minister David Cameron while he was on vacation.

It claimed Hague’s department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, had overseen the negotiations to date with Ecuador.

“If Mr Hague has, as would be expected, approved this decision, WikiLeaks calls for his immediate resignation,” it said.

Assange’s mother earlier Thursday claimed the United States was behind the British threat.

“What the US wants, the US gets from its allies, regardless of if it’s legal or if it’s ethical or in breach of human or legal rights,” she told reporters in Australia.

Patino said Ecuador “has made a decision” on whether to grant Assange

asylum and would announce it at 2pm CET Thursday.

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JULIAN ASSANGE

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer

Julian Assange would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but will continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States, his lawyer said Sunday.

Assange will cooperate with Sweden, but fight US warrant: lawyer
Julian Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson in London on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham/TT

“We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up,” Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

“The key issue at the moment is US extradition, which we have warned about for many years,” she added.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was arrested at the embassy on Thursday after Ecuador gave him up, and is now also fighting a US extradition warrant relating to the release by WikiLeaks of a huge cache of official documents.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: “That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum.”

She added: “He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice.”

The US indictment charges Assange with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: “This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time.”

The lawyer condemned as “outrageous” claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behaviour in the embassy, including that he smeared his faeces on the wall, saying: “That's not true.”

Quito also accused him of failing to care for his cat. WikiLeaks said Assange had asked his lawyers to “rescue him (the cat) from embassy threats” in October, adding: “They will be reunited in freedom.”

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.

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