Third night at Ecuadorean embassy for Julian Assange

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is little closer to discovering whether his request for political asylum in Ecuador will be accepted after he spent a third night at the country's embassy in London.

In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy yesterday, Mr Assange said he did not know when the decision would be made.

The 40-year-old Australian said there was no guarantee his request would be accepted.

Mr Assange went to the embassy in Knightsbridge on Tuesday to seek diplomatic asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies.

He told ABC's Radio National programme he was not prepared to go to Sweden because of the conditions in which he believes he would be held there.

He said: "The Swedes announced publicly, that they would detain me, in prison, without charge while they continued their so-called investigation.

"We had heard that the Ecuadorians were sympathetic in relation to my struggles and the struggles of the organisation with the United States, and the ability to exercise that option was at an effective end."

Mr Assange accused Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the US ambassador to Australia of "slimy rhetoric", and said he had received little consular assistance from his home country.

He told ABC that he had chosen against going to the Australian embassy after Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon refused "reasonable requests" by his lawyer to be involved or intervene in his planned extradition to Sweden.

Calling it an "effective declaration of abandonment", Mr Assange said: "There is not a single matter of concern under which the Australian government, as represented by the Attorney-General, would ask other governments to be reasonable or just in this case.

"There are serious issues here, and they are being hidden by the slimy rhetoric coming out of the US ambassador to Australia, via Gillard and by the Foreign Minister - and that needs to stop."

Ecuador's diplomats are still considering Mr Assange's request for asylum.

Speaking to the BBC, Ecuador's president Rafael Correra said his country defended the right to live, and that authorities were analysing whether Mr Assange faced a danger to his life if he were to be extradited before they made a decision on his asylum.

Mr Correra said: "We are looking very seriously and responsibly at the asylum request of Mr Julian Assange.

"So until we complete the analysis of this request we cannot pronounce officially."

Yesterday a spokesman for Mr Assange told the BBC he was "optimistic" and in good spirits.

He said: "Diplomatic relations take a little time. They have said that they would ask for information from the UK, the US and the Swedish authorities before they decide on the matter, and that probably takes some time. It could be days."

Mr Assange faces arrest for breaching the terms of his bail if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy.

The South American country, whose UK ambassador Anna Alban met the Government on Wednesday morning, says he is under its protection while it considers the application, which comes after his failed bid to avoid extradition to Sweden under a European arrest warrant to face sex crime allegations.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed in a statement that he was "beyond the reach of the police" while he remains in the building.

Mr Assange's move to claim asylum is the latest twist in a marathon legal battle played out in the glare of worldwide publicity.

He is set to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture.

Mr Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.

PA

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