Libyan embassy 1984, Ecuadorian embassy 2012

Thursday, 16 August, 2012

The standoff between the governments of Great Britain and Ecuador because the latter has allowed its embassy to be used as a hideout for the alleged sex offender Julian Assange brings back memories of another London embassy drama, one which resulted in the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher. And the murderer got away with it, as well, thanks to diplomatic subterfuge.

Background: On 17 April 1984, Yvonne Fletcher was part of a Metropolitan Police detachment sent to St. James’s Square to monitor a demonstration at the Libyan embassy by dissidents opposed to the rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The demonstration had been organized by the Libyan National Salvation Front following the execution of two students who had criticized the tyrant. Loud music was being played from the embassy in an apparent attempt to drown out the noise of the protesters when, without warning, automatic gunfire was discharged into the anti-Gaddafi protesters from the embassy and the unarmed Yvonne Fletcher was fatally wounded.

In July, the Sunday Telegraph named Salah Eddin Khalifa, a high-level member of the former Gaddafi regime, as the person who shot Yvonne Fletcher. Within minutes of the shooting, he had left the embassy via a back door before it was surrounded by police. Khalifa was said to have moved to another North African country following the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Ecuador is a very unpleasant country, rife with corruption and crime and very adept at bullying the press. In many ways, it is an ideal location for Assange but he deserves to be arrested before he ever sets foot there. One hopes that president Rafael Correa understands what’s at stake here because one assumes that the British have no intention of allowing a repeat of the the Libyan abuse of diplomatic premises or privileges.

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