WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sought political asylum from the Ecuadorian government on Tuesday afternoon at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the embassy announced.
“As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito,” said the embassy.
The 40-year-old Australian computer programmer and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, an anti-privacy media website, faces extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes after Britain’s top court rejected a legal request to reconsider his case.
Two women accused Assange for sexual misconduct during his visit to Sweden in 2010. His legal struggle to stay in Britain has dragged on for two years.
Assange will be able to remain at the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while the department assesses Assange’s application.
“The decision to consider Mr. Assange’s application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden,” the embassy clarified.
Assange gained international prominence in 2010 when WikiLeaks began publishing video footage and thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, most of which were regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. It also posted some 250,000 confidential cables from American embassies across the world.
Although he made Washington furious, in some circles Assange is considered a leading anti-censorship activist. Norwegian parliamentarian Snorre Valen nominated Assange for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
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