Following his failed bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime accusations, WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London and is seeking political asylum in the South American nation, British media said.
''I can confirm that today I arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. This application has been passed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Quito,” Assange said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his country would consider the request. In the meantime, Assange would remain under the protection of the embassy.
The move comes as Assange faces imminent deportation to Sweden after Britain's Supreme Court last week dismissed the 40-year-old Australian's appeal against extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex offences. Court declared that removal proceedings against Assange could begin June 28.
The self-styled anti-secrecy campaigner, whose website is famous for leaking hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, was accused of sex attacks in Sweden in August 2010, and had argued that the European Arrest Warrant issued for him was not valid because it was issued by prosecutors rather than a judge. Assange claims the allegations against him are politically motivated.
Assange is subject to arrest for breaking the terms of his bail, London's Metropolitan Police said Wednesday, after the WikiLeaks founder attempted to claim asylum, the CNN said.
“He is now subject to arrest under the Bail Act for breach of these conditions,” Britain’s Metropolitan Police, better known as Scotland Yard, said in a statement. “Officers are aware of his location.”
It is not clear that they will be able to arrest him, since diplomatic protocol prevents authorities from entering foreign embassies.
The Australian native sough asylum in Ecuador because he felt abandoned by the Australian government, the Sydney Morning Herald supposed on Wednesday.
Assange's confidants told the paper that his move was prompted by a letter from Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to one of his legal representatives. In the letter, Roxon made it clear that Australia would not seek to involve itself in any international exchanges about his future, the paper said.
''Australia would not expect to be a party to any extradition discussions that may take place between the United States and the United Kingdom or the United States and Sweden, as extradition is a matter of bilateral law enforcement cooperation,'' Roxon said in the letter.
However, Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said on Wednesday her government will discuss Assange’s matter with the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the ABC News reported. She pledged that Australia would continue to provide consular support for Assange.
"Our consular officials have been in contact with him, also with Ecuador in London about this, but his decisions in relation to this matter are for him to make," Julia Gillard was quoted as saying by the AP news agency.