Ecuador slams Britain over intruder at embassy where Julian Assange is sheltering

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange making a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in February 2016.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange making a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in February 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - The Ecuadorian government on Tuesday (Aug 23) criticised the British authorities after security intercepted an intruder trying to enter its London embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been sheltering since 2012.

"In the early morning hours of Aug 22, 2016, an unidentified person sought to gain unauthorised access to (the Ecuadorian) embassy in London," the Ecuador government said in a statement.

The government accused British authorities of not responding to the intrusion quickly enough, saying they had a duty to protect foreign missions.

"The Ecuadorian government therefore expresses its concern about the inadequate response by the British authorities, who only arrived at the embassy more than two hours after the incident took place," said the statement.

"The government of Ecuador regrets that, despite the enormous resources that the British government has undertaken to prevent Julian Assange leaving the Ecuadorian embassy, the authorities did not respond more quickly to this extremely serious attempt at unauthorised entry," it added.

The official WikiLeaks Twitter page carried live updates of the incident, with the first post saying: "16 mins ago at 2:47am a 'cat burgler' (sic) scaled the side wall+window of the Ecuadorian embassy in London; fled after being caught by security."

Prosecutors in Sweden want to interview Assange in connection with a 2010 rape allegation against him.

The 45-year-old Australian sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 after exhausting all his legal options in Britain against extradition to Sweden.

Assange claims that if he were sent to Sweden to face trial, he could be extradited to the United States to be tried over WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents and face a long prison sentence or the death penalty.