19 June 2012
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is seeking political asylum at Ecuador's London embassy, the country's foreign minister has said.
"Ecuador is studying and analysing the request," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in Quito.
On 14 June, Britain's Supreme Court dismissed Mr Assange's bid to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
He has denied the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.
The Supreme Court has given him until 28 June before extradition proceedings can start.
Swedish prosecutors want to question him over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former Wikileaks volunteers in mid-2010 but have not filed any charges.
Mr Assange, whose Wikileaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, claims the sex was consensual.
In a statement, Ecuador's embassy said he had arrived there on Tuesday afternoon to seek asylum.
"As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito," it said.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Mr Assange had claimed he was being persecuted
"While the department assesses Mr Assange's application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government.
It said the decision to consider the bid for asylum "should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden."
Associated Press quoted Mr Patino as telling reporters Mr Assange had written to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa saying he was being persecuted.
Mr Patino said that the Australian had claimed "the authorities in his country will not defend his minimum guarantees in front of any government."
Mr Assange said he would not be protected from being extradited to "a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition," Mr Patino said.
The anti-secrecy campaigner fears extradition to Sweden may lead to him being sent to the US to face separate charges relating to Wikileaks, for which he could face the death penalty.
But Swedish authorities have said the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) would intervene if Mr Assange was to face the prospect of "inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial" in the US.
Mr Assange could still take his case against extradition to the ECHR and has until 28 June to make the move.
Vaughan Smith, a friend who put Mr Assange up at his Norfolk home until December 2011, told the BBC he understood why he was seeking asylum.
"There's been an organised campaign to undermine him in recent months in Britain," Mr Smith said. "And he believed he would not get justice in Sweden."
Wikileaks has posted an alert on its Twitter feed: "ALERT: Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London."
It said Ecuador had offered Mr Assange asylum as early as November 2010.
Ecuador's deputy foreign minister said in 2010 his country was offering Mr Assange residency because it wanted to give him the opportunity to freely present the information he had.
However, President Rafael Correa subsequently dismissed the idea, which he said neither he nor Mr Patino had approved.