WikiLeaks founder seeks asylum from Ecuador
After losing an 18-month legal battle against a Swedish extradition request, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London and filed a request for asylum, which officials confirmed they are considering.
“ALERT: Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London,” WikiLeaks declared Tuesday afternoon on the micro-blogging social network Twitter.
Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in the nation’s capital city on Tuesday that Assange’s request was being considered.
Assange, who’s Australian, had previously been offered residency in Ecuador by a senior level official, but that offer was withdrawn a day later after President Rafael Correa suggested Assange had broken laws by publishing secret U.S. diplomatic documents.
Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden, where he faces charges of sexual assault. In a letter to Correa, Assange reportedly claimed that Swedish authorities would turn him over to the U.S., where he says officials have readied a secret indictment that could see him put to death for espionage.
It is not yet clear if the U.S. has secretly indicted Assange, but a grand jury was reportedly impaneled by U.S. Attorneys to investigate charges against him.
Assange had been staying at the Frontline Club in London while on house arrest pending the result of his appeals, which concluded earlier this month after the British Supreme Court refused to consider his appeal for clemency. Swedish officials said they expect to imprison Assange at least briefly until a preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges could be completed.