Will Ecuador have to smuggle Assange out of Britain? [Updated]

Update: The Guardian reports that an Ecuadorean official says the government will grant Assange’s asylum request. However, it "remains unclear if giving Assange asylum will allow him to leave Britain and fly to Ecuador, or amounts to little more than a symbolic gesture." Update 2: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa denies having made a decision. Adding ...

Update: The Guardian reports that an Ecuadorean official says the government will grant Assange's asylum request. However, it "remains unclear if giving Assange asylum will allow him to leave Britain and fly to Ecuador, or amounts to little more than a symbolic gesture."

Update 2: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa denies having made a decision.

Adding another wrinkle to the question of whether Ecuador will grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently holed up at the country's embassy in London, is how they would get him on a plane out of the country even if they wanted to. Reuters -- or as WikiLeaks calls it, the "favourite UK FCO/MI6 outlet", reports

Update: The Guardian reports that an Ecuadorean official says the government will grant Assange’s asylum request. However, it "remains unclear if giving Assange asylum will allow him to leave Britain and fly to Ecuador, or amounts to little more than a symbolic gesture."

Update 2: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa denies having made a decision.

Adding another wrinkle to the question of whether Ecuador will grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently holed up at the country’s embassy in London, is how they would get him on a plane out of the country even if they wanted to. Reuters — or as WikiLeaks calls it, the "favourite UK FCO/MI6 outlet", reports

"It’s not only about whether to grant the asylum, because for Mr. Assange to leave England he should have a safe pass from the British (government). Will that be possible? That’s an issue we have to take into account."

Assange is in breach of his British bail conditions and the British police have said he is liable to arrest if he steps out of the embassy, which is located in London’s ritzy Knightsbridge area, miles away from any airport.

It appears unlikely that the British government would give Assange safe passage to an airport as that would mean going against the Swedish arrest warrant and a ruling by Britain’s own Supreme Court that the warrant was valid.

This has been a major issue in previous asylum cases. Reformist Hungarian communist leader Imre Nagy, who took refuge in the Yugoslavian embassy during the Soviet invastion of 1956, was promised safe passage out of the country but then arrested the moment he stepped out of the compound. Another leader of the Hungarian uprising, Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty, had to spend the next 15 years living in the U.S. embassy before he was granted permission to leave the country. 

Can you stash a person in a diplomatic pouch? Ecuador’s diplomatic service does have some… er… experience in that sort of thing

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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