WikiLeaks' Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador (UPDATE)


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, centre, arrives at the High Court in central London, on July 12, 2011.



Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has formally requested asylum. Officials are considering his request, Ecuador's foreign minister said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said to reporters in Quito. 

Assange, who is an Australian citizen, is wanted in Sweden for sex crimes, after two women accused him of sexual misconduct during a visit there in mid-2010.

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Assange, 40, was placed under house arrest in Britain more than 500 days ago. Less than a week ago, Britain's Supreme Court rejected Assange's bid to reopen his extradition case.

According to the UK Press Association, there is only one other avenue that appears to remain for Assange. His legal team has 14 days to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to hear his case.

He could be now be extradited in as little as two weeks, as early as Thursday, June 28.

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Assange's mother, Christine Assange, was quoted in the Herald Sun as saying that she "desperately hopes" Ecuador will decide to protect her son.

"Julian is a political prisoner, a journalist, a publisher of the truth about corruption, war crimes, kidnapping, blackmail and manipulation," she said. "He remains uncharged and unquestioned on a crime which if you explore it has absolutely no basis. Of course he would seek asylum."

Responding to criticism of Australia's handling of the case on ABC News 24, Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard argued that Assange had received more consular assistance than any other Australian in recent times.

Meanwhile, a group of Assange's supporters held a vigil in the Australian city of Brisbane as they waited for news on Ecuador's decision, Australian Associated Press reported.