Wikileaks founder hoping to fly away to Ecuador


Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing organisation Wikileaks, has been fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden since the winter of 2011. Sweden wants to question Assange in relation to two allegations of sexual assault. Assange fears that the Swedish authorities will extradite him to the United States, where he believes he might be sentenced to death. As such, he has frantically taken every step to avoid extradition.
Earlier this year the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled that there was no hindrance for Assange to be extradited. Alarmed by the notion that extradition was imminent, Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has remained for the past months.

Diplomatic row

Yesterday, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, revealed his decision to grant Assange political asylum. Assange supporters envision that this latest development will protect him from arrest, if he decides to leave the embassy. However, UK authorities have been less than impressed and maintain that Assange will be arrested as soon as he steps outside the embassy premises.
The Foreign Office has even indicated that it may be willing to enter the embassy, in order to get hold of Assange. However, such a move would set a questionable precedent as embassies are seen as "inviolable" under the 1961 Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Such a reaction would jeopardise the safety of British consular staff in authoritarian states, who would be at risk of having authorities invading the embassies.

Higher risk to be extradited whilst in the UK?

Assange's fear may be rather unfounded as Sweden cannot extradite him to the US unless the latter makes an official request, accompanied by guarantees of not imposing the death penalty. Even then, Sweden would have to agree to such action, and would also need to seek approval from the UK. In fact, the likelihood of Assange being extradited to the US might have been higher whilst in the UK because of its long-standing extradition agreement with the US, under which British nationals have been extradited easily, which has given rise to wide criticism.
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