QUITO, June 19 – WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange has asked for political asylum at Ecuador’s embassy in London and officials in the South American nation are considering his request, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.
“Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in Quito.
Assange faces extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes after Britain’s top court said last week that it had rejected a legal request to reconsider his case.
The former computer hacker gained international prominence in 2010 when WikiLeaks began releasing secret video footage and thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, many of them about Iraq and Afghanistan, in the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history.
The decision by Britain’s Supreme Court ended the self-styled anti-secrecy campaigner’s 18-month legal battle against extradition in the British courts, and now only a possible appeal to the European Court of Human Rights stands in the way of his transfer.
The British court rejected the 40-year-old Australian’s argument that a European arrest warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors for his extradition was invalid.
In November 2010, Ecuador backed off an idea of inviting Assange to visit the country as President Rafael Correa accused him of breaking the law by releasing U.S. documents.
Assange, who has not been charged with any offenses in Sweden and denies any wrongdoing, has argued that the case is politically motivated because the release of documents on his website has angered the United States.
Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers. He has been fighting to prevent extradition since he was arrested in Britain in December 2010.