U.K. cops hunting for Assange show up at Ecuador's embassy

Hours after the Ecuadorian government accused the U.K. government of threatening a raid to nab Wikileaks editor Julian Assange, police vans show up at the embassy and police enter the outer lobby.

CBS News

Police showed up at Ecuador's London embassy this evening, hours after the Ecuadorian government accused the U.K. government of threatening a raid to nab Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

A live video feed from citizen journalist James Albury showed police in the outer lobby of the red brick building, which is also home to private apartments and Columbia's embassy. But it wasn't clear whether police had entered the Ecuadorian embassy itself, which would be an extreme breach of diplomatic protocol.

Ecuador's embassy said in a statement that:

We are deeply shocked by British government's threats against the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian embassy and their suggestion that they may forcibly enter the embassy. This is a clear breach of international law and the protocols set out in the Vienna Convention.

Assange has been camped out in Ecuador's embassy in London for the last two months as the country considers his asylum request, which is based in part on a claim that his native Australia has effectively abandoned him. He's hoping to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is unambiguous about diplomatic privileges: it says the embassy "shall be immune from search" and that the "premises of the mission shall be inviolable."

The U.K. Foreign Office said in a statement posted by ITV News that: "We have consistently made our position clear in our discussions with the government of Ecuador... We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador the full picture."

In a letter (PDF) posted by Ecuador's El Telegrafo newspaper, the Foreign Office says harboring Assange in the embassy is "incompatible with the Vienna Convention and unsustainable." (That's translated from the Spanish, which says "incompatible con la Convención de Viena e insostenible.")

The Foreign Office is contemplating a 1987 U.K. law that says if it withdraws "consent," an embassy -- such as Ecuador's -- "ceases to be diplomatic...premises for the purposes of all enactments and rules of law."

News reports yesterday indicated that Ecuador has chosen to grant asylum to Assange, but President Rafael Correa said soon after that the "rumor" is false and no decision has been made. An announcement is scheduled for 5 a.m. PT tomorrow.

The British courts have ordered that Assange be extradited to Sweden to face questioning for relating to "overraskningssex," which his lawyers have translated as "sex by surprise." One Swedish woman has claimed Assange had sex with her after a condom broke, and another has accused him of having sex without one in the first place.

 

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