Sunday, June 24, 2018

WikiLeaks founder seeks political asylum in Ecuador

LONDON — Julian Assange has spent years on the move, trying to keep ahead of authorities who want to stop his secret-spilling mission.

Now the WikiLeaks founder finds himself confined in the surprising setting of Ecuador's embassy, where he was holed up Wednesday while diplomats discussed his fate and British police waited outside to arrest him if he leaves.

Assange is seeking political asylum in the South American nation, in a dramatic bid to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex crimes. His supporters say he fears charges in the United States for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents.

The 40-year-old Australian landed himself in legal limbo Tuesday when he took refuge in the embassy near Harrods department store.

British police say Assange has violated the terms of his bail, which include an overnight curfew, and is subject to arrest. But British officials concede he is beyond their grasp as long as he remains in the embassy, which is treated as Ecuadorean territory.

Assange was arrested in London in December 2010 at Sweden's request. He has since been on bail and fighting extradition to the Scandinavian country, where he is wanted for questioning in alleged sexual assaults on two women in August 2010.

He denies the allegations and says the case against him is politically motivated. He also claims extradition could be a first step in efforts to remove him to the United States, where he claims to have been secretly indicted over his website's disclosure of 250,000 State Department cables.

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