Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said today that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and sought political asylum.
Patiño said that his country "is evaluating Mr. Assange’s request" and that the decision will be made based on the rules and principles of human rights and international law. Julian Assange had previously sent a letter to President Rafael Correa in which he complains about "political persecution” against him. Last May, Mr. Assange had met the president of Ecuador in his program “The World Tomorrow”.
In his letter to Correa, Mr. Assange regrets the lack of support he has received from his country, Australia. According to Assange, Australia "has ignored the obligation to protect its citizens who are politically persecuted". The Australian government’s position "makes it impossible to return to my country and places me in a helpless situation regarding the requests for interrogation by Sweden and the United States.” said Assange in his letter to Correa.
“Sweden’s top officials have openly attacked me and I am under investigation for political crimes in the U.S., a country where the death penalty for such offenses is still in force." "Death threats, economic boycott and the possibility of being handed over to the United States of America by British, Swedish or Australian authorities, force me to look in Ecuadorian territory for political asylum and protection to allow me to continue my mission in a territory of peace", reports ElComercio (in Spanish).
Last week the British Supreme Court had dismissed Assange’s appeal to reopen the case against his extradition to Sweden where he faces charges of rape and sexual abuse.
The Ecuadorian Embassy has released the following statement:
"This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorian government.
As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito.
While the department assesses Mr Assange's application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian Government.
The decision to consider Mr Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden."