LONDON – Scotland Yard said Wednesday that British police will arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he went to apply for political asylum in the Andean nation.
Assange unexpectedly appeared at the Ecuadorian mission on Tuesday.
The Australian citizen recently lost a long battle in the British courts to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct.
Assange, who denies the accusations lodged in Sweden, fears that once he is in Swedish custody, U.S. prosecutors will indict him for espionage and Washington will pressure Stockholm into handing him over.
Ecuadorian diplomats said Assange will remain under the embassy’s protection until Quito decides on his asylum request.
The WikiLeaks founder has been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010. British police said he violated the terms of his detention by spending Tuesday night at the Ecuadorian Embassy and vowed to arrest him if he leaves the mission.
Police took up positions outside the embassy, where reporters and Assange supporters started gathering as the news of his asylum request spread.
Ecuadorian Ambassador Ana Alban met Wednesday with British officials in pursuit of a “just” solution to the case, the envoy said in a statement.
Describing the talks as “cordial and constructive,” Alban said she told the British that her government “will take into account Ecuador’s long and well-established tradition in support of human rights” when considering Assange’s asylum request.
“I also stressed to the British government that it is not the Ecuadorian government’s intention to interfere with the legal process of the British and Swedish governments,” the ambassador said.
Politicians and pundits in the United States began baying for Julian Assange’s blood after WikiLeaks disseminated thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables as well as a video that showed an American military helicopter crew killing a Reuters photographer and several other civilians in Iraq.
The man accused of providing the cables to WikiLeaks, U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, is currently undergoing a court martial and faces a possible life sentence.
Manning has already spent nearly two years in prison, a good part of it in solitary confinement conditions that a formal U.N. investigation deemed “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” EFE