Last night Ecuadorian officials announced they will decide by the end of the day today whether or not to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since Tuesday, when he broke his bail conditions to make a plea for political asylum.
UK authorities have promised to arrest Assange for a breach of bail conditions as soon as he leaves the embassy, making it difficult for him to reach Ecuador even if political asylum is granted.
Nonetheless, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa will answer Assange today, as tension mounts around the case.
Correa stated last night that Assange needed somewhere "to continue his mission" to fight for freedom of expression, and that it was within Ecuador's sovereign rights to consider his asylum request.
Britain's supreme court ruled last week that Assange will be extradited to Sweden, where he faces accusations of sexual assault. From there, it is likely that he would be sent to the US on charges of espionage.
Assange maintains that the allegations against him are politically motivated -- an attack related to his work leaking damning diplomatic cables from the US government to news outlets around the world.
Per Samuelson, one of the WikiLeaks founder's two Swedish lawyers, said Assange "feels that he's persecuted politically by the U.S." for revealing American war crimes.
"He is convinced that the U.S. is preparing charges," he said. "He feels that his asylum application is not about the crime accusations he faces in Sweden, but is about getting protected from the U.S."
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Associated Press: Ecuador says it will decide soon on Assange asylum
Ecuador says it expects to decide Thursday on an asylum request by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is spending a third day ensconced in its London embassy.
The country's deputy foreign minister, Marco Albuja, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that President Rafael Correa would make a decision within the day.
"The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow," Albuja said late Wednesday.
Ecuador's London embassy confirmed a decision was expected from Ecuador's capital, Quito, on Thursday, but spokeswoman Priscilla Kohn said the timing was uncertain.
Journalists and a handful of WikiLeaks supporters gathered outside the Edwardian embassy building in London's Knightsbridge district in anticipation of a decision.
Assange has been fighting since 2010 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual assaults on two women. He denies the claims, and says the case against him is politically motivated.
His supporters say he fears charges in the United States for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents via the WikiLeaks web operation.
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A spokeswoman at the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge said Assange was in good spirits in anticipation of the decision, which is expected to be announced either in Quito or in Rio, where Correa, is attending the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development.
"He is OK, fine. We are all here waiting for what the decision is going to be," she said.
Alban described her discussions with the Foreign Office as "cordial and constructive", and welcomed British readiness to co-operate with her government in the search for a solution.
In a statement on the embassy website she said her foreign ministry in Quito would "take into account Ecuador's long and well-established tradition in supporting human rights".
But Alban added: "I also emphasised to the UK government that it was not the intention of the Ecuadorean government to interfere with the processes of either the UK or Swedish governments." [...]
Assange, an Australian national, has until 28 June to take his case to a European court of in Strasbourg if he wishes to argue he did not receive a fair trial in Britain.
Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said on his Twitter account: "We are now studying the risk claimed by Assange that he would be face a politically motivated trial and could be sentenced to death."
In a tweet this afternoon Patino reported: "Representatives of civil society at Rio+20 are waiting outside President Correa's hotel to demand that he gives Julian Assange asylum."
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