Wikileaks Founder Requests Asylum from Ecuador

By: CNN
By: CNN

(CNN) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and has formally requested asylum, Ecuador's foreign minister said Tuesday.

Ricardo Patino read a statement to reporters at a news conference in Quito. He took no questions.

Assange has been fighting for a year and a half against being sent to Sweden for questioning about accusations of sexual abuse. Two women accused him in August 2010 of sexually assaulting them during a visit to Sweden in connection with a WikiLeaks release of internal U.S. military documents.

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom last week dismissed an application filed by an attorney for Assange seeking to reopen his appeal against extradition. The application was Assange's last option in the British courts.

Assange has not been charged with a crime, but Swedish prosecutors want to question him about allegations of "unlawful coercion and sexual misconduct including rape," according to a Supreme Court document.

He has been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010. Assange has maintained his innocence and claims the allegations against him are politically motivated. He fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, authorities there could hand him over to the United States, where he then could be prosecuted for his role in the leaking of classified documents.

WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, has published some 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, causing embarrassment to the government and others. It also has published hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents relating to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Recently, the organization has come under financial pressure, leading Assange to announce that WikiLeaks was temporarily stopping publication to "aggressively fund raise" in order to stay afloat.

An announcement at the top of WikiLeaks' home page reads: "We are forced to put all our efforts into raising funds to ensure our economic survival."

During his wait for the Supreme Court to rule on his extradition, Assange has hosted a talk show on Russian TV. "The World Tomorrow" appears on the Kremlin-funded, pro-Russian network Russia Today. He hosts it from the Suffolk, England, mansion where he is under house arrest with an electronic bracelet monitoring his movements.

He has interviewed controversial figures at odds with the U.S. government, including Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist organization, and Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, who railed against the United States in his interview with Assange.


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