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[Updated] WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Granted Political Asylum

The government of Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum

The government of Ecuador granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum Thursday.

The gesture promises to ratchet up into a full-blown diplomatic crisis since the British Foreign Office, anticipating the move, has threatened to strip the Ecuadorian embassy in London of its diplomatic status so Assange can be forcibly arrested and deported to Sweden to answer questions about allegations of rape and sexual abuse made in 2010 by two WikiLeaks volunteers.

Under the British Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987 an embassy abusing its privileges or not being used for its essential purpose can lose its sovereignty.

The Foreign Office says it is still hoping for a negotiated resolution but it also made it clear that it is determined to fulfill its responsibility to turn Assange over to Sweden after Britain's Supreme Court decided the Swedish warrant was valid.

It is speculated that the Foreign Office will seek a court ruling before making a move. It is unclear how long that could take. It threatens to make embassies around the world vulnerable.

Assange, meanwhile, is condemned to remain in the small apartment in Knightsbridge behind the Harrods department store that serves as Ecuador's embassy. If he steps outside he will be arrested by the Bobbies that currently have the red brick building surrounded and are dealing with his supporters who have been congregating outside.

He's reportedly suffering psychologically from the confinement. He's been cooped up for two months.

The New York Times reports a British official calling the situation inside the embassy as “surreal” after he talked to an embassy staffer.

Ecuador’s decision is predicated on the reported refusal of Britain, Sweden and the United States to guarantee that Assange, if extradited to Sweden, would not then be sent on to the United States to face charges for unleashing a barrage of confidential State Department e-mails on the Internet.

Assange contends he faces life imprisonment or execution in the US.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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