Ecuador's government said late on Wednesday that that it would announce its final decision on an asylum request filed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday, a day after the Australian sought refuge at the Andean nation's Embassy in London.
Notably, Ecuador had invited Assange two years ago to seek residency in that country. But, the government led by Leftist President Rafael Correa quickly withdrew the offer and accused Assange of violating U.S. laws.
"The national government is considering its position and the President will give us his instructions tomorrow," Ecuador's Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday.
Correa said in an interview with the South American cable TV network Telesur earlier on Wednesday that his government "will take the necessary time because this is a very serious affair that we take with absolute responsibility."
Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Tuesday, and sought asylum in the South American nation to avoid extradition to Sweden to face charges of sexual misconduct.
Later, the Ecuadorian Embassy issued a statement saying that Assange would "remain at the Embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government," while his application for asylum was considered. The Embassy stressed that Ecuador would consult with the governments of the UK, Sweden and the U.S. before making its decision.
Simultaneously, the British Foreign Office said Assange was "on diplomatic territory and beyond the reach of the police." It said British officials would work with their Ecuadorian counterparts to resolve the situation. Further, British police said Assange faced arrest for breaching his bail conditions.
Days earlier, the British Supreme Court had rejected an appeal by Assange against his extradition to Sweden and upheld its May 30 ruling that the European arrest warrant for him was valid. In its ruling, the Supreme Court had rejected arguments by Assange's lawyers that the European arrest warrant was invalid because it was issued by prosecutors rather than a judge, and stated that "judicial authority" could mean a prosecutor.
Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning in connection with allegations that he had raped one woman and molested another while on a visit in August, 2010. Sweden, which turned down Assange's application for residency permit, had issued an international arrest warrant for him in November 2010 in connection with the probe.
Assange has admitted to having met the two women while in Sweden, but denied having engaged in any non-consensual sex with them. He claims that the case is part of a smear campaign aimed at discrediting his controversial website and is politically-motivated.
Assange was arrested in London on a Swedish warrant in December, 2010. The Australian is currently free on a £200,000 bail provided by several high-profile supporters. He fears that he could be later extradited from Sweden to the U.S. on separate charges relating to publishing classified U.S. diplomatic cables, for which he could face the death penalty there.
Nevertheless, Swedish authorities have guaranteed that the European Court of Human Rights would intervene if Assange was to face the prospect of "inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial" in the U.S.
The developments came after WikiLeaks, a website that publishes leaked classified information online, released some 250,000 classified cables sent from U.S. Embassies around the world to several newspapers, embarrassing Washington in the diplomatic front. That move fueled a wave of public anger in the U.S., resulting in numerous calls for bringing Assange to justice for alleged treason.
by RTT Staff Writer
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