With just nine days left before he is set to be extradited to Sweden, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has applied for political asylum with Ecuador, according to a news report. We’ve touched on Assange in a previous article, but as a quick review, he’s the brains behind the continued release of high-level, private government communication that caused a firestorm of debate.
Assange appeared in person at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Tuesday seeking protection and will remain there until Ecuadorian authorities rule on his application for asylum, according to a statement from the embassy.
“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 said in a statement.
According to a separate statement from Ecuador’s foreign ministry, Assange asserted that Australia, his native country, appeared to have no plans to protect him, which put him in a state of “helplessness.” He was therefore asking Ecuador to provide him with asylum.
Ecuador is “evaluating the request of Mr. Julian Assange and any decision on it will take into account respect for the rules and principles of international law and the traditional policy of Ecuador to safeguarding human rights,” Ecuadorian officials said in the statement.
Assange, however, is not accused of political crimes. He is being sought for questioning in Sweden on rape and coercion allegations stemming from separate sexual relations he had with two women in that country in August 2010. One woman told police that Assange pinned her down to have sex with her and that she suspected he intentionally tore a condom he wore. The second woman reported that he had sex with her while she was initially asleep, failing to wear a condom despite repeated requests for him to do so. Assange was in the country applying for residency so that he might benefit from Sweden’s strong press protection laws.
Assange has denied any wrongdoing, asserting that the sex in both cases was consensual.
What do you think? Is Sweden’s court system any better or worse than any other? Or, is this a case of lawyers, and other influential people such as filmmaker Michael Moore (who donated $20,000 to Assange’s bail), spreading false rumors in order to release such a polarizing figure? Where do you stand? Let us know your thoughts, below.