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There have been some scuffles between police and protesters outside the Embassy. Sky News has some of them on camera.
Demonstrators, some wearing masks, were seen being hauled away by police who were in massed ranks outside the building in central London.
A handful of protesters have gathered outside the embassy enraged by the FCO’s threat to arrest Assange come what may. In the meantime, two of them have reportedly been arrested themselves.
(Incidentally, there’s a live stream from outside running here, though the camera work is of variable quality…)
Speaking to Press Association, 19-year-old Paul Milligan, from Kentish Town, said:
I heard about this at 1am and walked here to protest. If Britain is essentially about to invade Ecuador, then I want to have a say about that.
If they load him in a police van to try to bring him out, I intend to sit in front of the van and obstruct it in any way I can.
The point about Julian Assange is that he didn’t doctor any of the materials – he released the documents and said to the world ‘This is the truth, have a look at it and see what you think’.
The idea that somebody can be snatched from the Ecuadorian embassy in London by British police, and sent to Sweden then possibly America, is ludicrous.
A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows his support outside the Ecuadorean embassy in central London, London, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange entered the embassy in June in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. (AP Photo/Sang Tan) Photograph: Sang Tan/AP
Updated at 12:07 BST
Amid all the tension, however, someone still seems to have a sense of humour.
According to Twitter reports, several taxis have been turning up at the Ecuadorean embassy with the name “Julian Assange” in the window.
The Foreign Office does not appear to be backing down on its threat, saying this morning the UK has a legal duty to extradite Assange to Sweden even if he is granted political asylum.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman is quoted by Press Association as saying:
It [the granting of asylum] does not change our position. Our legal position is not changing at all.
Our position is that we have a duty to extradite him, even if he is granted political asylum.
Unsurprisingly, the FCO’s interpretation is not shared by WikiLeaks. The organisation has issued an angry condemnation of the document, calling for William Hague’s resignation and accusing the UK of trying to “bully” Ecuador into refusing Assange asylum.
An edited extract of the (lengthy) statement reads as follows:
This threat is designed to preempt Ecuador’s imminent decision on whether it will grant Julian Assange political asylum, and to bully Ecuador into a decision that is agreeable to the United Kingdom and its allies.
WikiLeaks condemns in the strongest possible terms the UK’s resort to intimidation.
A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not
proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum seekers worldwide
We remind the public that these extraordinary actions are being taken to detain a man who has not been charged with any crime in any country.
WikiLeaks joins the Government of Ecuador in urging the UK to resolve this situation according to peaceful norms of conduct.
We note with interest that this development coincides with the UK Secretary of State William Hague’s assumption of executive responsibilities during the vacation of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
Mr Hague’s department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has overseen the negotiations to date with Ecuador in the matter of Mr Assange’s asylum bid.
If Mr Hague has, as would be expected, approved this decision, WikiLeaks calls for his immediate resignation.
Updated at 10:49 BST
Julian Borger, our diplomatic editor, has some interesting background on the “threat” issued by Britain. He writes that, after reports that Ecuador might consider giving Assange asylum, a British diplomat from the embassy in Quito went to the foreign ministry and delivered the UK position, leaving an ‘aide-memoire’ with the main points on it. This is the letter Patino is talking about, says Borger.
The document raises British concern about the reports that the
president is considering offering asylum. It says London’s preferred
course, even if asylum is offered, is to continue discussions on a
mutually acceptable outcome.
However the note did point out that the foreign secretary had the power to go to court to seek the right for UK police to enter the Ecuadorean embassy to arrest Assange. He would have to prove that international law had been broken and that Ecuador was in contravention of its Vienna Convention obligations in harbouring Assange.
The foreign office is confident these conditions would be met. It says the embassy would have a week’s notice of the action and the police would not look at or remove any embassy documents and the diplomatic immunity of Ecuadorean diplomats would not be affected.
A foreign office spokesman said that the UK government realised this
would be a serious step, but added ‘it is not as serious as ending
diplomatic relations’. He said the UK saw its paramount obligation
was the legal duty to extradite Assange.
Updated at 10:38 BST
We want to make it absolutely clear that we are not a British colony, and that the times of the colonies are over.
Fifty-eight days after he first walked into the Ecuadorean embassy in London seeking “diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum”, Julian Assange finds out today if his bid has been successful. At 1pm, President Rafael Correa is expected to declare whether or not his country will grant Assange’s request.
Even by itself, this announcement would warrant significant interest – from Assange’s legion of supporters, from Sweden (where he is wanted for questioning in connection with accusations of the rape of one woman and sexual assault on another in August 2010, which he denies) and, of course, from the US (where the government has opened a grand jury investigation into the passing of hundreds of thousands of secret US embassy cables to WikiLeaks).
But the brouhaha accompanying today’s decision has ratcheted up the speculation even further. The Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, yesterday hit out at what he said was a “written threat” to attack the embassy in London. The UK Foreign Office, he said, had delivered him a letter through a British embassy official in Quito saying that it would have a legal right to “take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the embassy”. Such a move, raged Patiño, would be seen by Ecuador as “a hostile and intolerable act and also as an attack on our sovereignty”.
So, all in all, it looks likely to be an eventful day. And we’ll be bringing you all the latest on this blog.
Updated at 10:23 BST
Assange watch: video updates from outside Ecuador’s embassy in London
Following Ecuador’s indication that it is to offer asylum to Julian Assange – who faces extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges – and Quito’s accusation that Britain has threatened to enter its London embassy if it fails to hand over the WikiLeaks founder, this video from outside the embassy will be regularly updated as the situation develops
Assange watch: video updates from outside Ecuador’s embassy in London Following Ecuador’s indication that it is to offer asylum to Julian Assange – who faces extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges – and Quito’s accusation that Britain has threatened to enter its London embassy if it fails to hand over the WikiLeaks founder, this video from outside the embassy will be regularly updated as the situation develops