LONDON – WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, seeking asylum in a long-shot move that would see him trade the glare of an often-hostile British press for the comforts of a small Latin American nation governed by a friendly leader.
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the leftist government of President Rafael Correa – an administration often at odds with Washington – was weighing the request. He did not indicate when a decision might be made.
Assange’s legal options in the U.K. had almost completely run out. Less than a week ago Britain’s Supreme Court re-endorsed its decision to allow the 40-year-old’s extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted over sex crimes allegations. The accusations – which stem from Assange’s trip to the country in mid-2010 – have cast a cloud over his online organization’s spectacular leaks of U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence material.
Ecuador – where less than one in three people have access to the Web – may seem an unlikely place for the former computer hacker to seek refuge, but in many ways it’s an obvious choice.
“It’s one of the few countries that has given a great opening to Assange’s entire cause,” said Grace Jaramillo, an international relations professor at Ecuador’s FLACSO university.
“Correa sees Assange as a critic of the status quo,” he said. “He has been challenging the United States and Correa likes that.”