British threats to storm Ecuador's embassy in order to arrest Julian Assange, in violation of international law, set a dangerous precedent, analyst Mark Weisbrot told RT. Ecuador granting Assange asylum is a blow to Washington, he said.
RT: In your recent article, you describe Ecuador's decision to grant Assange political asylum as groundbreaking. Why is it so significant?
Mark Weisbrot: Well, it is significant historically, because this is the first time that someone has fled prosecution from the United States and was granted asylum. I mean usually, or many times, people get asylum here in the United States. In that sense I think it is a political blow to the US government, which has tried to portray itself as a defender of human rights in the world, although that was not necessarily believed outside the of the US and its allies.
RT: Some legal experts now say that being accepted as a political refugee is just a symbolic thing for Assange, as it will not prevent his extradition to Sweden. That was recently reiterated by the UK Foreign Office. Has anything really been achieved here?
MW: Absolutely. First of all I mean the UK made a huge mistake, the UK government and Foreign Office, by threatening to invade the Ecuadorian embassy, which is the sovereign territory of another country. This just isn’t done. I mean, I could not even find a case where this was done in the last 60 or 70 years.
I’m sure they thought that this threat would never be made public, but the Ecuadorian government released the letter. And it’s a very clear threat. They’ve tried to walk back from it saying they were not threatening, but if you read it the language is very clear. They said, 'if we want to we’ll go in and arrest Assange if you do not cooperate with us.'
And you know, the Ecuadorian government made every attempt to reach a solution to this impasse. First of all, they offered to let him be interviewed [by Sweden] in the embassy. Assange is not charged with any crime. There was not any legitimate reason to extradite him in the first place, because he is not wanted for trial, he is not charged with a crime. They only wanted to question him, which they could always do in the UK.
So, what this shows, also I think this is part of the significance of it, is that not only Sweden acted in bad faith and the UK acted in bad faith in the negotiations, refusing to provide any guarantees for example that he would not be extradited to the United States.
Sweden has not even had much of a case for bringing him there. And eventually, depending on what happens there, they might just drop it. Again, they have not charged him with any crime. It is not clear if he is going to be charged with any crime. And this case is getting pretty old. And they can’t really care about it much or they would have investigated it, they would have taken the advantage to investigate the crime – in other words, to interview him. And they have not done that.