Julian Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador embassy
WikiLeaks founder takes refuge in London embassy in bid to avoid extradition to Sweden
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, sought political asylum at Ecuador's embassy in London yesterday in a dramatic attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden.
Mr Assange, who is wanted by authorities in Stockholm to answer to allegations of sex crimes, walked into the embassy in Knightsbridge yesterday afternoon and requested asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. A statement issued on behalf of the embassy said that Mr Assange would remain at the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while it considers his application.
"As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito," the statement said.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, said the Australian had taken refuge at its embassy and that the country's government was weighing up the request. Mr Patino, speaking at a press conference in Ecuador, said Mr Assange had written to the Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, saying he was being persecuted and seeking asylum.
Mr Patino said the Australian had written that he could not return to his home country because it would not block his extradition to "a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition".
The move follows a long-running legal bid by Mr Assange, 40, to halt his extradition to Sweden, where he is accused of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010.
The UK Supreme Court decided on 30 May that extradition was lawful and could go ahead, and last week it refused an attempt by him to reopen his appeal against extradition, saying it was "without merit".
Mr Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, said the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated.
After his arrest in December 2010, Mr Assange had a number of famous friends and supporters who helped him to raise bail of £240,000. Last night, the socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who is thought to have donated a significant amount towards that sum, said on Twitter: "I had expected him to face the allegations. I am as surprised as anyone by this."
In a short statement issued yesterday evening, Mr Assange said: "I can confirm that today I arrived at the Ecuadorian embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador."
- 1 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 2 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
- 5 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
Scottish independence: Scots of Corby take matters into their own hands in mock referendum - and deliver overwhelming verdict
Protesters fight to save Arturo, the polar bear sweltering in baking hot zoo
Fry ‘criticises Operation Yewtree in dinner party rant’ calling for tougher laws to deter false sex abuse allegations
Supermoon 2014 in pictures: Moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war, 13,000 years ago
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software En...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software Tea...