LONDON — Ecuador’s president said Thursday his government would take its time in deciding whether to grant asylum to Julian Assange as the WikiLeaks founder spent a second night at its embassy in London.
The 40-year-old Australian sparked a stand-off with British police after he turned up in the embassy on Tuesday and asked for asylum in a dramatic bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Scotland Yard say the founder of the whistle-blowing website has breached his bail conditions and is now subject to arrest.
Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister Marco Albuja said that President Rafael Correa would give his instructions within 24 hours, but Correa later indicated a longer timeframe was possible.
“He (Assange) presented his reasons. We are going to verify them... We will take the time necessary,” Correa told AFP, adding that it would be done “with absolute seriousness and absolute responsibility.”
The leftist leader, who has often been at odds with Washington, said his government was studying Assange’s claim that he could be extradited from Sweden to the United States on political grounds and possibly sentenced to death.
“Ecuador is a country which defends the right to life. We have to see whether there is a threat to Julian Assange’s life,” Correa said on the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development.
One British policeman stood guard on Thursday outside Ecuador’s embassy, which is opposite the famed Harrods department in the upscale Knighstbridge area of London, an AFP photographer said.
Scotland Yard said early on Thursday that there had been no new developments overnight.
Britain’s supreme court last week threw out Assange’s application to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden after a marathon legal battle.
He has until June 28 to lodge an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, after which the extradition process can begin. — AFP