Ecuador's envoy heads to Quito for Assange talks

June 23, 2012 - 10:57 AM
Britain Wikileaks Assange

A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision would be made. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

LONDON (AP) — Ecuador's embassy in London said Saturday that ambassador Anna Alban was traveling to her country's capital to brief President Rafael Correa on the bizarre request for political asylum made by Wikileaks chief Julian Assange.

Assange took refuge inside the embassy on Tuesday and remains camped out in an office there after his legal options ran out for avoiding extradition from Britain to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning for alleged sex crimes.

Correa, Ecuador's leftist president, has said his government is considering Assange's request, but has not indicated when a decision will be made.

In a statement, the country's embassy said Saturday that Alban had boarded a flight to Quito to personally brief Correa on the situation.

"While in Ecuador she will be holding a series of meetings with officials at the ministry of foreign affairs before meeting President Correa to personally brief him on Mr. Assange's application for political asylum," the statement said. "She will also fully brief the president on her recent meeting with officials of the U.K. Government."

Speaking Thursday from inside the embassy, Assange said he had made his bid for asylum because the "Ecuadoreans were sympathetic in relation to my struggles." He had previously interviewed Correa, with whom he shares skepticism toward the United States.

"Ecuador presently finds itself in a unique situation and it is important that those responsible making the final decision on Mr. Assange's application are fully briefed on all aspects of the present," the embassy said in its statement.

Assange has been fighting since 2010 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual assaults on two women. Assange denies the claims, and says the case against him is politically motivated.

Both he and supporters insist that if he was sent to Sweden he would then likely become the target of a U.S. request to extradite him there over allegations linked to his leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents via the secret-spilling WikiLeaks website.

U.S. soldier, Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 24-year-old from Crescent, Oklahoma, has been charged with aiding the enemy by passing the secret files to WikiLeaks and is awaiting trial.

A Virginia grand jury is studying evidence that might link Assange to Manning, but no action has yet been taken.

"We are hoping what I am doing now will draw attention to the underlying issues," Assange told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio in an interview Thursday.

Correa said his country would discuss the case with Britain, Sweden and the United States before reaching a final decision.

Jeanette Mattsson, a spokeswoman for Sweden's Justice Ministry, on Saturday said that Ecuador's Ambassador to Stockholm had met with two government officials on Thursday to discuss the Swedish judicial system and Assange's case.

While inside the London embassy, Assange remains outside the reach of British authorities — but police are poised to arrest him the moment he steps foot outside the building.

Police said Assange will be arrested for breaching the terms of his bail, which included an overnight curfew at a registered address.

Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson said Saturday that filmmaker Michael Moore has sent Assange a message of support, urging him not to despair.

Robinson posted an email sent by Moore, among supporters who offered money to meet Assange's 200,000 pounds ($316,000) bail, to her Twitter account.

In the message, sent Wednesday, Moore told the WikiLeaks founder it was a crime "that you even have to seek asylum, and I stand with you through this. Do not despair."

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Associated Press writer Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed to this report