Assange makes 1st public appearance in 2 months
“I think these allegations are just a way of getting to him,” said Laura Mattson, a 29-year-old supporter from London who joined a raucous crowd outside the embassy. “Is it about the charges or is it about silencing WikiLeaks?”
South America’s foreign ministers met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, on Sunday at the host nation’s request to discuss the case. The ministers condemned Britain’s threat last week to forcibly enter the Ecuadorean embassy in London but did not uniformly endorse Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Assange.
On Friday, foreign ministers of the Organization of American states are to convene in Washington.
Former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, who is representing Assange, said Sunday that Ecuador could consider making an appeal to the International Court of Justice in the Hague to compel Britain to grant Assange safe passage out of the country.
Garzon, who won global fame for aggressively taking on international human rights cases, is appealing Assange’s conviction for overstepping his jurisdiction in a domestic corruption probe in Spain.
Tensions have risen between London and Quito over the case, after Britain appeared to suggest it could invoke a little-known law to strip Ecuador’s embassy of diplomatic privileges — meaning police would be free to move in and detain Assange.
Assange claimed Britain had only refrained from carrying out the threat because of a vigil by his supporters outside the embassy. Ecuador’s mission is a small apartment inside a larger building which houses offices and Colombia’s Embassy. British police form a thick line outside, and are on guard in the building’s shared lobby and staircases.
“Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape,” Assange said. “If the U.K. did not throw away the Vienna Convention the other night, it is because the world was watching.” Under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, diplomatic posts are treated as the territory of the foreign nation.
The WikiLeaks founder attempted to draw parallels between himself and the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose three members were convicted and jailed this week for a performance denouncing President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.
“There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response,” Assange said.
• Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.