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Assange Granted Asylum for Fear of U.S. - Ecuador Envoy

RIA Novosti

18:05 17/08/2012

MOSCOW, August 17 (RIA Novosti) - Ecuador has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange out of concern that after his extradition to Sweden Assange could be transferred to the United States where he might face the death penalty, the Ecuadorian ambassador to Russia said on Friday.

“We cannot anticipate the U.S. expectations but we do not rule out even the death penalty,” Ambassador Patricio Alberto Chavez Zavala said.

“Assange has been persecuted for a crime that has yet to be proven,” he said. “In appealing to our state, he provided the information as to why he needs political asylum.”

He said Assange will not stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London forever, adding that it was waiting for permission from the British authorities for Assange’s safe travel to the airport.

“I believe that Britain is a very wise and experienced country and I’m absolutely sure that we will be able eventually to find an acceptable solution,” he said.

Assange has been holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London for two months as he fights extradition to Sweden on sex crime charges, which he denies.

He was granted asylum on Thursday, a day after the British authorities threatened to strip the embassy of diplomatic immunity, allowing them to enter its grounds and arrest Assange.

Ecuador said such an action would be "hostile and intolerable" and called on the Organization of American States and the Union of South American Nations to hold an emergency meeting over Britain's threat.

The Australian national took refuge at the embassy in June after the UK's Supreme Court dismissed his appeal against extradition.

He still faces arrest the minute he steps out of the building.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told a news conference in London Britain will not allow Assange safe passage out of the country.

The world's most famous whistleblower is suspected of sexual assault against two women that allegedly took place in August 2010. He claims the sex was consensual and the accusations against him are politically motivated.

WikiLeaks' publication of U.S. diplomatic cables on November 29, 2010, containing forthright comments from U.S. diplomats about foreign leaders and events, caused an internet sensation and enraged U.S. officials. WikiLeaks previously published tens of thousands of documents about the actions of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moscow said it was bewildered by Britain’s refusal to recognize Assange’s right to asylum, considering that London has previously refused to extradite to Russia persons suspected of committing serious crimes.

“As is known, dozens of persons suspected of grave crimes, whose extradition has been demanded by other states, including Russia, have found refuge in Britain,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

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