The Metropolitan Police in London, United Kingdom, say that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in breach of his bail conditions by staying overnight at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he sought political asylum on Tuesday. If Assange leaves the premises, he can be arrested, the police added.
As part of his bail conditions, granted by the High Court in December 2010, Assange is required to remain at his bail address between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. each night.
Assange has been staying at a house in rural England while on bail, but late Tuesday afternoon, he walked into the Ecuadorian embassy in London requesting diplomatic protection and political asylum under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
Assange is facing imminent extradition to Sweden to face questioning over alleged sex crimes, though Assange argues the investigation is a ruse to make it easier for him to be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges over the publication of millions of U.S. classified diplomatic cables. Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested for allegedly leaking those cables to WikiLeaks and is facing a court martial currently scheduled to start in September.
WikiLeaks supporter Vaughan Smith, who put up £20,000 in bail money for Assange and allowed him to stay at his rural estate for more than a year, is reportedly “shocked” at Assange’s move. Smith, as well as others who put up bond for Assange, could forfeit the money.
The UK Foreign Office confirmed that the Ecuadorian embassy enjoys diplomatic immunity and that Assange is beyond the reach of police.
If Assange leaves the premises, however, he will no longer be protected by diplomatic immunity, according to Ove Bring, a Swedish professor in international law. Speaking to Swedish media, Bring expects that Ecuador will deny Assange asylum and that he will be arrested as soon as he exits the premises.
Even if Ecuador agrees to Assange’s asylum application, UK police can stop the car or helicopter he would be travelling in to get him out of the country. Bring said that since Swedish police “screwed up” by letting Assange go near embassies, they are likely to take a hard line to make sure the WikiLeaks founder doesn’t get away. Sweden also says Assange will be imprisoned as soon as he arrives in the country.
The lawyer representing the two women that Assange is suspected of having committed sex crimes against, Claes Borgström, says Assange is afraid that he will be convicted for rape.
Borgström says he doesn’t see why Assange has to seek asylum in Ecuador. The Swedish lawyer doubts that the country will grant him refuge and expects Assange to arrive in Sweden soon for questioning.