Assange seeks political asylum

Halstead Gazette: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seeking political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seeking political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sought political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after failing in his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations.

The 40-year-old Australian is currently inside the building in Knightsbridge, having gone there in the afternoon and requested asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration.

The country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino told a press conference in the South American country that it was considering his request.

In a short statement, Mr Assange said: "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."

The computer expert, who was on £200,000 bail after failing in several attempts to halt extradition, attracted several high-profile supporters including Ken Loach and socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who each offered £20,000 as surety. Other supporters included Bianca Jagger and veteran left-winger Tony Benn.

The Swedish authorities want him to answer accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture.

Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.

The Supreme Court last month ruled in favour of a High Court ruling that his extradition was legal. Last week the Supreme Court refused an attempt by him to reopen his appeal against extradition, saying it was "without merit".

He had until June 28 to ask European judges in Strasbourg to consider his case and postpone extradition on the basis that he has not had a fair hearing from the UK courts.

A statement issued on behalf of the Ecuadorian Embassy said Mr Assange would remain at the embassy while his request was considered.

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