On June 14, Britain’s Supreme Court dismissed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange‘s bid to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes. On Tuesday, June 19, in a continuing effort to stay out of Sweden, Assange took refuge in Ecuador‘s London Embassy, and asked for asylum.
The Ecuadorian Embassy released the following statement:
“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.”
In Quito, Ecuador, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters, “Ecuador is studying and analysing the request.” In November of 2010, Ecuador offered Assange residency. However, Ecuador quickly dropped the idea after he was accused of breaking U.S. laws.
Patino added that Assange had written to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa saying he was being persecuted. He said that Assange had said “the authorities in his [home] country [Australia] will not defend his minimum guarantees in front of any government or ignore the obligation to protect a politically persecuted citizen.”
Assange asserted that it was impossible for him to return to Australia because the country would not protect him from being extradited to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition”.
The U.K. Supreme Court had given Assange until June 28 before extradition proceedings would begin. Assange has denied the allegations against him, saying they were politically motivated.
While no charges have been filed, Swedish prosecutors still want to question Assange over allegations of sexual assault made by two female former Wikileaks volunteers stemming from mid-2010. Assange has claimed the sex was consensual.
His only remaining legal recourse in Britain is a possible appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Wikileaks has published a number of classified documents and cables, some of them diplomatic in nature and some of them classified documents about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. A number of those documents were allegedly leaked by Pfc. Bradley Manning.
On Dec. 16, 2011, Manning’s Article 32 hearing began, and on Feb 03, 2012, Manning was ordered to stand trial. Manning has been charged with 22 offenses, including violations of Articles 92 and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), and of the Espionage Act. The most serious of the charges levied against him is “aiding the enemy,” which is a capital offense.