Anthony Faiola and Karla Adam
June 20, 2012
LONDON — The legal odyssey of Julian Assange took a bizarre twist Tuesday when the WikiLeaks founder waltzed into the Embassy of Ecuador in London and requested political asylum in a bid to avoid facing allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden.
While keeping with Assange’s often-unpredictable methods, the surprise move by the man who masterminded the release of tens of thousands of secret U.S. cables and other sensitive documents appeared to catch British authorities off-guard. It raised the possibility of yet another dramatic chapter in Assange’s 16-month-long effort to fend off extradition, with the potential to escalate into an embarrassing diplomatic incident putting the leftist government of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa in the position of weighing Assange’s claim that he is being politically persecuted by Britain, Sweden and the United States.
The asylum request, Ecuadoran officials said, was under review, with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino posting a message on his Twitter account saying that Assange had written to Correa to say he was being persecuted for “publishing truth that compromises the powerful.” The foreign minister signaled that his country was “ready to defend principles, not narrow interests.”
Assange was especially worried about being extradited to the United States and said he had been receiving death threats, Patino added in his tweets.