Assange's fate in Ecuador's hands as he defies police request to surrender


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The Independent Online

Julian Assange has vowed to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy and has refused a request by the Metropolitan Police to give himself up.

A representative for the WikiLeaks founder said today that his legal team had advised him to “decline to comply” with an order which requested that the Australian-born campaigner visited a police station in Belgravia this morning.

Doing so would have meant imminent arrest because Mr Assange has broken his bail conditions. He is wanted by Sweden for questioning over the alleged rape of two women in the summer of 2010.

His final appeals were exhausted earlier this month but he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy last week and claimed asylum.

Speaking to reporters today, Susan Benn, a representative of the Julian Assange Defence Fund, said fleeing to the embassy was “a difficult decision” but one that was made necessary by the fear that the United States was trying to bring to their own prosecution against Mr Assange.

She added that the WikiLeaks founder was “in good spirits” and was “grateful for the support shown to him by the people of Ecuador and so many others from around the world”.

Mr Assange has insisted that his decision to seek asylum is not motivated by the case against him in Sweden. Instead he fears that he would be unable to claim asylum if the United States initiated their own proceedings while in Sweden because prosecutors in Stockholm have vowed to hold him on remand because he is deemed a flight risk.

“Once in Sweden under such grave restrictions it would be impossible for Mr Assange to exercise his asylum rights,” Miss Benn said.

Mr Assange’s fate now rests in the hands of Ecuador’s left-leaning popular president Rafael Correa.

He has made sympathetic statements about Mr Assange but his government has not rushed into making any decision on whether asylum will be granted. Even if it is, Mr Assange would be able to leave the UK only with the permission of the British authorities, leading to the prospect of Mr Assange spending months – and possibly years – holed up in the tiny embassy.