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Police enter Ecuadorean embassy building

Several police officers have reportedly entered the building in London, which houses the Ecuadorian embassy and where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up, hoping to get asylum in the country.

Police enter Ecuadorean embassy building

The purpose of officers entering the premises housing the embassy is still not known.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Wednesday that it would be “unacceptable” for British police to enter the embassy itself, but noted that his country “has made a decision” on Assange and will announce it Thursday at 7am (2pm CET).

Patino said that Ecuador had received “an express threat in writing” from Britain “that they could storm our embassy if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange.”

“Ecuador rejects in the strongest terms the explicit threat made in Britain’s official communication,” Patino told reporters.

“The position taken by the government of Great Britain is unacceptable, both from the political and the legal point of view,” he said, warning that entering the embassy without authorization “would be a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention” on diplomatic relations.

Assange took refuge at the embassy on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, which he claims plans to eventually surrender him to US authorities.

“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,” a British Foreign Office spokesman said.

But even if the asylum request is granted, it is unclear whether Assange will be allowed to leave, as British police were waiting outside the embassy ready to arrest him for breaching the terms of his bail granted in 2010.

“Throughout this process we have drawn the Ecuadoreans’ attention to relevant provisions of our law, whether, for example, the extensive human rights safeguards in our extradition procedures, or to the legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK,” a Foreign Office spokesman said to national British broadcaster BBC.

“We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution.”

According to the broadcaster, the law in question is the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987.

This law allows the UK to revoke any diplomatic status of an embassy on UK soil, which allowing police to enter the building.

By using this privilege, they would therefore be able to arrest Mr Assange for breaching the terms of his bail.

Ecuador had said it was reviewing the sexual misconduct allegations as it weighed his asylum request. Assange maintains he had consensual sex with the alleged Swedish victims.

A few activists camped out overnight outside the embassy.

The protest’s Facebook page claimed another 600 more demonstrators were expected later at the embassy and have threatened to “occupy” it.

“This situation is contradictory in a country which heralds free speech,” an 18-year-old protester who gave her name as Ella told AFP.

“What he (Assange) did is beautiful and important. We need to show solidarity.”

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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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