‘Persecuted’ Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador after taking refuge in embassy

Sourced at: The Age
June 20, 2012 – 6:44AM
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seeking asylum at the Ecuador embassy in London.WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seeking asylum at the Ecuador embassy in London. Photo: AP

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange has taken refuge in the South American nation’s embassy in London and is seeking political asylum.

Assange said in a statement: ”I can confirm that today 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.”

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the country was weighing the request.

The move comes less than a week after Britain’s Supreme Court rejected the 40-year-old Australian’s bid to reopen his extradition case.

Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden after two women accused him of sexual misconduct during a visit to the country in mid-2010.

His legal struggle to stay in Britain has dragged on for the better part of two years, clouding his website’s work exposing the world’s secrets.

Assange walked into the embassy, in London’s Knightsbridge district, and asked for asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration.

A man speaking from the embassy said Assange had arrived at the embassy on Tuesday and was requesting political asylum.

A message was posted on the WikiLeaks Twitter account, saying:

ALERT: Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London justice4assange.com/donate.html

We will have more details on the Ecuadorian situation soon.

Patino told a news conference that Assange had written to leftist President Rafael Correa saying he was being persecuted and seeking asylum.

He said that Assange had argued “the authorities in his country will not defend his minimum guarantees in front of any government or ignore the obligation to protect a politically persecuted citizen”.

He said it was impossible for him to return to his homeland because it would not protect him from being extradited to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition”.

The reference is presumably to the United States. Assange claims the US has secretly indicted him for divulging American secrets and will act on the indictment if Sweden succeeds in extraditing him from Britain.

An embassy spokesman said later: ”In order to reach a proper decision in line with international law on Mr Assange’s application, the Ecuadorian government will be seeking the views of the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States of America.

”The Ecuadorian government will consider all the representations carefully as it is obliged to do under the accepted process in assessing such applications.”

Assange shot to international prominence in 2010 with the release of hundreds of thousands of secret US documents, including a hard-to-watch video that showed US forces gunning down a crowd of Iraqi civilians and journalists whom they had mistaken for insurgents.

Australian authorities have co-operated with the United States in investigating WikiLeaks’ conduct.

They concluded Assange has broken no Australian law.

After his arrest in December 2010 Assange had a number of famous friends and supporters who helped him to raise bail of £200,000 ($310,000).These included filmmaker Ken Loach and socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who each offered £20,000, and Bianca Jagger.

In November 2010 Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister said the country was offering residency to Assange.

However, Correa told reporters the following day that neither he nor Patino had approved the offer and it would need to be studied.

Timeline of the WikiLeaks saga:

April 5, 2010 – WikiLeaks releases a video showing a 2007 US helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad. Eight days later US Defence Secretary Robert Gates criticises WikiLeaks, saying it failed to provide any context explaining the situation.

June 7 – The US military says that Army Specialist Bradley Manning, who was deployed to Baghdad, has been arrested in connection with the release of the classified video. The US intelligence analyst faces a court-martial in September 2012 after being accused of leaking thousands of government files to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, aiding the enemy identified as al-Qaeda.

July 25 – More than 91,000 documents, most of them secret US military reports about the war in Afghanistan, are released by WikiLeaks.org.

October 22 – WikiLeaks releases about 400,000 classified US military files chronicling the Iraq war from 2004 to 2009, the largest leak of its kind in US military history.

November 18 – A Swedish court orders Assange’s detention as a result of an investigation begun in September by the prosecutor’s office into allegations of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion.

November 28 – WikiLeaks releases thousands of US diplomatic cables that include candid views of foreign leaders and blunt assessments of security threats.

December 7 – Assange is arrested by British police on a European warrant issued by Sweden and held in jail after a judge refuses to grant bail.

December 14 – A British judge grants bail of £20,000 for the release of Assange. Prosecutors, representing Sweden, appeal against the bail decision. Two days later the decision to grant bail is upheld by London’s High Court.

August 25, 2011 – WikiLeaks releases thousands of previously unpublished US diplomatic cables from its cache of more than 250,000 State Department reports.

October 24 – Assange says WikiLeaks will have to stop publishing secret cables and devote itself to fund-raising.

November 2 – Britain’s High Court says Assange should be extradited to Sweden. A month later Assange is given permission to appeal the decision On the grounds that the European arrest warrant was invalid because it was issued by a prosecutor and not a judge or a court as required in Britain.

May 30, 2012 – Court backs Assange’s extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes. Assange appeals on June 12.

June 14, 2012 – Britain’s Supreme Court rejects Assange’s bid to reopen his case. This means he has exhausted his legal options in the UK. He could still take his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

AP, PA, Reuters

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/world/persecuted-assange-seeks-asylum-in-ecuador-after-taking-refuge-in-embassy-20120620-20moh.html#ixzz1yHFZLc8q


One Response to “‘Persecuted’ Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador after taking refuge in embassy”

  1. nonviolentconflict Reply 21/06/2012 at 1:14 am

    Reblogged this on NonviolentConflict.

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