Photo: WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Seeks Asylum in Ecuador
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has to be very careful about where he chooses to request asylum, and it would seem that after a long deliberation he has chosen Ecuador.
On Tuesday, the Australian is said to have walked into the Ecuadorian embassy in London and officially submitted a request for political asylum. If granted asylum, the move could prove not only beneficial for Assange, but also for Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who some claim seeks to stifle free speech. Should Assange be granted asylum, Correa would be able to rebuke those claims, showing the world he supports free speech and those like Assange, who feel it is their duty to share government and other “secret” documents which share, as Wikileaks puts it, “evidence of the truth.”
Assange is in quite the predicament however, as reports are abound that should he leave the embassy, he faces arrest for not abiding by the terms of his bail. Ecuador officials have stated Assange will “remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorean government” while authorities in the capital, Quito, considered his case.
Assange, 40, is currently out on bail and fighting extradition to Sweden after being arrested in London in December 2010 at Sweden’s request, as they wish to speak with him regarding the alleged sexual assaults of two women.
The Wikileaks founder and his supporters have claimed the allegations were only made to discredit and silence him, and also to ensure he is sent to the United States, where the government is certainly no fan of his. Many of the documents on the Wikileaks site have revolved around various activities by the U.S. military and government officials in the Afghan war.
Shortly after the leak of diplomatic cables, the U.S. Justice Department opened a criminal investigation and considered charges under the Espionage Act as well as charges of trafficking stolen government property and “on grounds they [Wikileaks and Assange] encouraged the theft of government property.”
The U.S. Center for Constitutional rights has issued a statement saying the arrest of Assange displays “multiple examples of legal overreach and irregularities.”
While many were surprised by Julian Assange’s decision to seek asylum in Ecuador this is not the first time he has spoken with Ecuador’s government.
In November 2010, President Correa extended an invitation to Assange to discuss documents leaked on his website as they relate to Ecuador and other Latin American countries, according to a statement from the country’s foreign ministry.
In the same statement, vice chancellor Kintto Lucas offered Assange political asylum, saying, “We are open to grant him Ecuadorian residency, without any kind of problem or any kind of conditions.” And last month, Assange interviewed Correa, with the interview being aired by Russia Today.
Ecuador my be Assange last chance to avoid being sent to the U.S., as his home country is no longer an option. According to the Wikileaks site, “Legal advisor to Julian Assange, Jennifer Robinson, met with Australian Attorney General Nicola Roxon on May 2 2012, to ask Australia for basic assistance to protect Mr. Assange. The Australian government issued an effective “declaration of abandonment”, refusing to protect Mr. Assange, or make any requests on his behalf.