Ecuador has granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but Britain has issued a letter claiming the legal right to forcibly remove him from the embassy if the Ecuadoreans fail to hand him over.

Ecuador said it found evidence that Assange would not receive a fair trial if he were extradited from Sweden, where he is wanted on rape charges, to the United States.

What Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has called a “written threat” has created tension between the two nations. But Ecuador has shown no signs of backing down.

“Today we received a threat from the United Kingdom,” Patino said in Quito on Wednesday. “A clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange. We want to make it absolutely clear that we are not a British colony and that the times of the colonies are over.”

How Assange could leave the embassy without being captured is the subject of much speculation on Twitter. One user noted “a very fast-looking BMW outside the Ecuadorean Embassy.” Another jokingly suggested the use of a “diplomatic bag.”

Assange watched the announcement live on television in the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he has been living for two months.

“Things will probably get more stressful now,” he is reported to have said to embassy staff.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Reuters via NewsMax:

“Ecuador has decided to grant political asylum to Julian Assange following the request sent to the President,” Patino told a press conference in Quito.

He argued that Assange’s personal security was at risk, extradition to a third country without proper guarantees was probable, and legal evidence showed he would not have a fair trial if eventually transferred to the United States.

“This is a sovereign decision protected by international law. It makes no sense to surmise that this implies a breaking of relations (with Britain),” Patino added.

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