UK & World News
WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Seeks Asylum
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces arrest after he breached his bail conditions by being at the Ecuadorian embassy last night.
The 40-year-old Australian is inside the building in Knightsbridge, London, having gone there on Tuesday afternoon to request political asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration.
The move followed his failed bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations.
The Metropolitan Police has confirmed Assange is subject to arrest after breaching one of the bail conditions imposed on him by the High Court, which was to stay at his bail address between 10pm and 8am.
Earlier, the South American country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said it was considering Assange's request.
Mr Assange also issued a short statement earlier saying: "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." A small group of supporters staged a demonstration at the embassy in Knightsbridge, waving placards that read "Free Assange, No Rendition" and "Free Assange, No Extradition", and a large sign reading: "Free Assange! Free Manning! End The Wars".
Gavin Macfadyen, from the Centre for Investigative Journalism at City University, went inside the embassy to visit Assange. "He is fine, he is in very good humour and grateful for the hospitality of the embassy," he said. "He is meeting with the lawyers now to discuss all of it. "It's a very fluid situation, he is in good humour and the generosity of the embassy is impressive and moving." The computer expert, who was on £200,000 bail after losing several attempts to halt extradition, attracted several high-profile supporters, including film director Ken Loach and socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who each offered £20,000 as surety.
Bianca Jagger wrote on Twitter: "I would like to set the record straight. I didn't post bail for Julian Assange."
Swedish authorities want Assange 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.
He has 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.
Earlier, a statement issued on behalf of the Ecuadorian Embassy said Assange would remain at the embassy while his request was considered.
"As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito," it said.
"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."
The Foreign Office said: "As Mr Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy, he is on diplomatic territory and beyond the reach of the British police.
"We will seek to work with the Ecuadorian authorities to resolve the situation as soon as possible."
At a news conference in Ecuador, Mr Patino said that Assange had written to the country's president, Rafael Correa, saying he was being persecuted and seeking asylum.