Julian Assange, the famed creator of Wikileaks, was granted asylum in Ecuador today, after fleeing to the country’s embassy in London in June.
Assange currently faces charges for sexual misconduct in Sweden and was set to be extradited to the country for trial when he sought shelter at the embassy. At the time, he was under house arrest in London, waiting for his extradition. His real fear, however, may not be the trial in Sweden, but rather the potential to be further extradited to the United States. The U.S. has an interest in bringing Assange to American soil because of diplomatic cables that were leaked through his website, Wikileaks, in 2010.
Unhappy with Assange’s refuge, the U.K. has threatened to enter the Ecuadorian embassy and has guards ready to arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy and steps onto U.K. soil. Cnet notes that Ecuadorian representatives may escort Assange in a diplomatic vehicle to the airport to escape to Equador, though law enforcement could entrap the car and force Assange to step on U.K. ground.
Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s foreign minister, says the country discussed the problems with Assange’s extradition with the U.K., though the two countries were unable to come to an agreement. The main issue of contention is apparently that the U.K. cannot promise Assange will not be taken after his Swedish trial to the U.S., and that Ecuador is concerned for his well being.
Wikileaks is known for publishing sensitive or proprietary information in the name of transparency. The U.S. cables involved in what is now referred to as “Cablegate,” pertained to diplomatic and military communications. They included sensitive and embarrassing information. Since then, the website has released a number of similar documents, including a slew of Syrian government emails, as well as emails from geopolitical analyst firm Stratfor.
“WikiLeaks condemns in the strongest possible terms the UK’s resort to intimidation,” the organization said in a statement posted to its website in July, when Assange first entered the embassy. “A threat of this nature is a hostile and extreme act, which is not proportionate to the circumstances, and an unprecedented assault on the rights of asylum seekers worldwide.”
Editors of the website have thus far not released any statements on today’s events.
hat tip Cnet; Julian Assange photo via adamfeuer/Flickr