Mario Lopez writes from Quito: So, the long wait is over. People here have been wondering whether President Rafael Correa would grant Julian Assange political asylum or not. Well, he has. That is the easy part. The difficult part for Assange and Ecuador is to transport him from London to Quito. To add to the excitement, Ecuador accused the British police of preparing to enter its embassy in London to arrest him. Now that would be a breach of international law and part of the way towards a declaration of war.
Let’s say the police did enter the embassy. Presumably Assange would barricade himself in the basement. What would they do? Break down the barriers and wreck the embassy? This would be a diplomatic coup of the first magnitude for Assange and Ecuador. One can assume that the chances of Theresa May giving such an order are remote.
Lots of famous people have signed letter after letter supporting Assange’s claim for political asylum. What do they all have in common? They are all out of love with the United States. Their political stance is anti-American. In a democracy that is quite acceptable. However it is strange that they supported a plea for political asylum. There is nothing political about the charges which Assange will face if he ever appears in a court. He is accused of rape and sexual assault in Sweden. I have no idea whether he is guilty or innocent but he is going to extraordinary lengths to avoid appearing in front of a Swedish judge. His friends maintain that if he is extradited to Sweden – a lackey of the US they claim – he will be handed over to US justice. Needless to say his supporters do not believe he will receive a fair trial in Sweden or the US.
He cannot leave the Ecuadorian embassy – which is part of the territory of the Republic of Ecuador – without being arrested by London police. He jumped bail on 19 June and has been stuck in the embassy ever since. So now he has been granted political asylum because his human rights are being infringed. But how would he travel from London to Quito? He would have to step on to British territory to do so. How could this problem be resolved? Ecuador could request Britain to permit him to leave. Since he has broken English law by jumping bail, this would present a legal problem. So let’s assume the British government says no. What then? There is a simple solution. The UK government breaks off diplomatic relations with Ecuador and declares all diplomats and staff personae non gratae. They would be given 48 hours to leave. Since there are no diplomatic relations, the Ecuadorian embassy is no longer Ecuadorian territory. It becomes part of England again.
The Metropolitan police would then have the right to enter the former embassy and arrest Julian Assange. He is after all on English soil. He could then be extradited to Sweden. However the Americans are keen to get their hands on him. Apparently Washington has told London to enter the embassy and seize him.
Back to Ecuador. An interesting place to choose for sanctuary. Has Assange overlooked the fact that President Correa puts journalists who criticise him and his government in jail? The country’s human rights record is bleak. So Julian, if he ever gets there, will have to mind his ps and qs. What happens if President Correa loses the next election and a pro-American President takes over? Assange will have to hightail it out of Quito very fast.
Why did Assange not decide to ask for political asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia or Argentina? They all hate America. Any critic of Uncle Sam is a friend of theirs. Presumably he sounded them out first. They decided he was too much of a hot potato to handle.
Anyway the Assange saga makes a nice story. It is a welcome diversion from the awful things that are happening in the Middle East.