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UK police want Assange as he seeks asylum in Ecuador

Published time: June 20, 2012 11:09
Edited time: June 21, 2012 15:09

Supporters of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange gather outside the Ecuador Embassy in central London (Reuters / Paul Hackett)

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London police say they are ready to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for breaching his bail conditions and spending the night in the Ecuador embassy while seeking political asylum in that country.

The WikiLeaks founder is currently at the embassy in London’s Hans Crescent, with Scotland Yard aware of his whereabouts. His bail conditions state that he should remain at his bail address at night, between the hours of 10 pm and 8 am. UK police say Assange breached his house arrest conditions as he stayed in the Ecuador Embassy Tuesday night.

As long as the whistleblower stays in the mission of the small South American country, he is beyond the reach of police. Once he steps outside he can immediately be arrested by officers stationed outside the Edwardian apartment block that houses the embassy.

Meanwhile, Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja said that President Rafael Correa is expected to give instructions on whether to proceed with granting Assange asylum or not on Thursday.

"We still can't make a final decision public yet, until tomorrow,” Albuja said Wednesday night.

Legal experts differ in opinion as to whether asylum granted to Assange by Ecuador will let him obviate the legal proceedings that could bring his extradition to Sweden. It also remains unclear whether the procedure would guarantee Assange safe passage from the UK to Ecuador.

“The government of Ecuador has a capacity under international law to grant Assange political asylum, in which case he would be eligible to enjoy protected passage from the United Kingdom to Ecuador,” said Professor Donald Rothwell from the Australian National University College of Law.

Quite to the contrary, American attorney Kevin Zeese asserted that “there is no guarantee that the UK has to recognize the political asylum decision of Ecuador, and that could mean he will stay in the embassy for a long time.”

Zeese also says that the decision on Ecuador's part could take months.

“This could take a lot of time – there are thousands of refugee cases already waiting in line to be considered in Ecuador. Ecuador is the second-largest recipient of refugees in Latin America,” he explained.

Australian citizen Assange, 40, hopes that Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa will grant him political asylum after previous messages of support.

Assange has recently interviewed Correa for his exclusive program – The Julian Assange Show on RT.

Ecuador is believed to be considering his request while holding close consultations with the British authorities.

“What’s interesting to me is that under the US standards for granting asylum, Assange would meet them. He has a valid fear of persecution for his political opinions, and a real fear that the government to which he would be extradited would not be able to [protect him] itself, or prevent a third party government from interfering and persecuting him,” Jesselyn Radack, national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project told RT in an interview.

“The United States has launched a worldwide manhunt against him. I think he correctly views this as a likely pretextual attempt to get him into Sweden which has a horrible history of caving to the United States and extraditing people, including those seeking political asylum. Ecuador is actually obligated to [grant him asylum] because it is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Radack concluded.

Assange was arrested by the Metropolitan Police Service's Extradition Unit on December 7, 2010 on a warrant issued by Sweden. He is wanted in that country on allegations of rape and sexual molestation. The same day he appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Julian Assange denies all allegations and says extradition to Sweden could in reality mean jail in the United States. The whistleblower is wanted in the US for exposing as many as 250,000 State Department secret cables.

Supporters of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange gather outside Ecuador′s Embassy in central London June 20, 2012 (Reuters / Paul Hackett)
Supporters of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange gather outside Ecuador's Embassy in central London June 20, 2012 (Reuters / Paul Hackett)
 (Reuters / Paul Hackett)
(Reuters / Paul Hackett)