WikiLeaks Founder Seeks Asylum In Ecuador

Julian Assange leaving Royal Court of Justice on July 13th, 2011

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder accused of rape in Sweden, has sought asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London. Assange, known for leaking hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic documents through the WikiLeaks Web site, arrived at the South American country's embassy Tuesday according to media reports. It wasn't clear how Assange got there, since he was living under strict bail conditions at the country mansion of a wealthy supporter.

The development is the latest twist in Assange's battle to avoid extradition from Britain to Sweden, where two women claim the international whistleblower raped and sexually assaulted them. Both are ex-WikiLeaks volunteers. Assange denies the allegations, which he claims are politically motivated.

The Ecuadorian government said it would keep Assange under its protection while it evaluates Assange's application, according to Reuters news agency. Ecuador invited Assange in 2010 to take up residence in the country, but later withdrew the invitation on the grounds that he had violated U.S. laws. Ecuador currently has a leftist government unfriendly to the U.S.

Earlier this month, Britain's Supreme Court refused to reconsider Assange's appeal against being sent back to Sweden. Extradition proceedings were scheduled to start June 28.

Ecuador has been cautious in its comments. The embassy released a statement saying that its decision to consider the asylum request should not be interpreted as the country interfering in the judicial processes of Britain or Sweden, according to the British Broadcasting Corp.

Assange believes extradition to Sweden would eventually lead to him being sent to the U.S. to face charges that could lead to the death penalty. Swedish authorities have said that the European Court of Human Rights would prevent "inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial" in the U.S., according to the BBC.

Assange was arrested in London in December 2010 to face a Swedish arrest warrant. Assange turned himself shortly after WikiLeaks started releasing more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables

Assange photo by acidpolly.