UPDATE: Assange is now inside the Ecuadorian embassy, awaiting a decision from the government on his extradition request.
From The Guardian’s Beatrice Woolf:
Assange walked into the embassy in Knightsbridge and asked for asylum under the UN human rights declaration. He said: “I can confirm I arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum.
“This application has been passed to the ministry of foreign affairs in the capital Quito. I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application.”
The dramatic move follows a long-running legal bid by the whistleblower to halt his extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex crime allegations. Assange is currently on £240,000 police bail, and had been living with friends, a number of whom put together the bail payment.
The case of the WikiLeaks founder, who faces imminent extradition from Great Britain to Sweden for questioning in allegations of sexual misconduct, took a new twist today with an announcement by the Ecuadorian government/
WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has asked for political asylum in Ecuador and officials in the South American nation are considering his request, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in Quito.
Assange faces extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes after Britain’s top court said last week that it had rejected a legal request to reconsider his case.
Today’s development follows a report that Assange would be imprisoned immediately on arrival in Sweden.
From Juha Saarinen of Wired’s Threat Level blog:
Julian Assange will be imprisoned after he is handed over to Swedish authorities when he is extradited and will have a court hearing four days after extradition from the United Kingdom to decide if he will stay in custody, the Swedish government announced Friday.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom decided not to reopen Assange’s appeal and upheld the decision that the WikiLeaks founder should be extradited to face sex crime proceedings in Sweden.
The UK Supreme Court has ordered that Assange won’t be handed over to the Swedes until June 28. After that date Assange will be brought to Sweden within 10 days, according to European Arrest Warrant rules, Sweden’s Office of Public Prosecutions said.
Within four days of his arrival in Sweden, a court hearing will decide whether or not Assange should be remanded in custody for questioning by prosecution. Any decision by court can be appealed, according to the Swedish prosecutors.
Assange will be brought to Sweden by the country’s Department of Corrections, which will also take him into custody. Since Assange is considered to be a flight risk, he will be kept in prison while waiting for the remand hearing.
The allegations against Assange involved sexual encounters with two women, one of who has retracted the allegations and fled to Palestine, after sending a cryptic Tweet hinting at connections with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Assange also fears, probably correctly, that the U.S. would force Sweden to extradite him to the U.S. for trial on the same charges as PFC Bradley Manning, who currently being court-martialed by the military on charges of espionage.