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UK confirms Assange at Ecuador embassy

20 June 2012, 12:27

London - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has requested political asylum at Ecuador's embassy in London, where he remains "beyond the reach of the police", the British Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Assange, aged 40, faces extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual offenses, after Britain's Supreme Court rejected his final appeal on 14 June. A 10-day period of extradition begins on 28 June.

The Foreign Office in London said Assange was on "diplomatic territory" and that it would work with Ecuador to resolve the situation. Analysts said Assange could be arrested by police if he stepped outside the embassy.

Ecuador on Tuesday confirmed that Assange, an Australian, had sought refuge at it London embassy.

"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," a statement by the Ecuadorian embassy said.

It added: "In order to reach a proper decision in line with international law on Mr Assange's application, the Ecuadorian government will be seeking the views of the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden and the United States of America."

'Regrettable' move

Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities over rape and sexual assault allegations made by two women, who said the attacks happened in 2010.

"I don't want to comment these events until I have more knowledge about what has happened," Thomas Olsson, a lawyer representing Assange in Sweden, told Swedish Radio.

Claes Borgstrom, a lawyer representing the two Swedish women, regretted Assange's move.

"It was completely unexpected," Borgstrom said. "But it was in line with how he has acted during the almost two years that have passed, stalling and shifting the focus from what the case is about."

Borgstrom said the delay meant "extra pressure" on his clients.

Australia's acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan said Assange's asylum application was a personal matter.

"Mr Assange will take decisions in his own interests as he sees them," Swan said. "What we will do is provide as much assistance as we can, as is normal for any Australian citizen overseas."



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