WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, according to the site’s Twitter.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patino says Assange has taken refuge in the South American nation’s embassy in London and is seeking political asylum.
Assange wrote directly to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, saying he was being persecuted and could not return to his homeland, where he would be vulnerable to extradition to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition.”
“Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request,” Patino told reporters in Quito.
The country’s embassy in London has also confirmed the information and released a statement on its website.
“While the department assesses Mr Assange’s application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian Government.
The decision to consider Mr Assange’s application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden”, the statement says.
The South American nation has already once offered Assange residency. In November 2010, Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas said his country is “open to giving him [Assange] residency in Ecuador”. Lucas also said Ecuador was “very concerned” by information revealed by Wikileaks linking US diplomats with spying on friendly governments.
Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has been under house arrest in the UK since 2010, after Sweden issued an international arrest warrant over allegations of sexual assault.
Swedish authorities accuse him of raping one woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in August that year, while on a visit to Stockholm to give a lecture. He claims both encounters were consensual, and maintains that the case is politically motivated.
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