London/Quito, Aug 16 (IBNS) Defying warning of United Kingdom, Ecuador on Thursday granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who since June has taken refuge in the London embassy premises of the South American country to avoid his extradition to Sweden where he is facing charges of sex offence.
Julian Assange, founder of the whistle blowing site, had sought political asylum from Ecuador writing to Rafael Correa, the leftist President of the nation, saying he was being persecuted.
In offering asylum to Assange, Ecuador said it responded to the fears of the WikiLeaks founder that his human rights would be violated.
"The Ecuadorian government, after carrying out a fair and objective analysis of the situation presented by Mr. Assange and evaluating his oral and written arguments, has decided that there's cause to presume that he could be the target of political persecution or that such persecution could happen if no timely and necessary measures are taken to prevent it," Ecuador foreign minister Ricardo Patiño said in Quito, the capital city.
Ricardo Patino also slammed UK for what it called an open threat to storm the embassy of his country in London to arrest Assange.
"This is a sovereign decision protected by international law. It makes no sense to surmise that this implies a breaking of relations (with United Kingdom)," Patino said.
However, UK reacted sharply to the decision of Ecuador.
"We are disappointed by the statement from Ecuador's Foreign Minister that Ecuador has offered political asylum to Julian Assange," the foreign office of UK said.
"Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government's decision this afternoon does not change that," it said.
"We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act," it said.
An FCO spokesperson said: "The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences and we remain determined to fulfil this obligation.
"We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador full picture.
"Throughout this process have we have drawn the Ecuadorians' 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."
The 40-year-old Assange, an Australian, who thanked Ecuador for the asylum and called it a significant victory earlier had said that "the authorities in his own country will not defend his minimum guarantees in front of any government or ignore the obligation to protect a politically persecuted citizen."
The foreign minister of Ecuador Thursday referring to the UK threat to enter the embassy said: "We can't allow spokespeople from the UK to gleefully say they have been honest when they have threatened us in such a way."
Patino called Assange's fears of political persecution as "legitimate".
Meanwhile, Assange can be arrested by the British police once he goes out of the embassy. Cops are posted outside the Ecuador embassy building.
The whistle-blowing website founder had been in trouble after two women in Sweden had charged him of sexual assault.
Swedish police had earlier sent out a lookout for Assange after two WikiLeaks workers had accused Assange of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in incidents in Aug 2010.
The legal actions in Sweden and the UK came in wake of a massive expose of diplomatic cables by Assange's website Wikileaks which left the American administration egg-faced.
Defying disapproval of the White House, WikiLeaks, in Nov 2010, had released nearly 250,000 diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies across the world from the past three years uncloaking the backroom bargains of world leaders and insight into their fears as well as the concerns of USA.