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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange formally requested asylum in Ecuador at the Latin American country’s embassy in London on Tuesday afternoon, a week after he exhausted options to fight extradition to Sweden through the British judiciary system, CNN reports.
The request is the latest twist in a year-and-a-half long legal battle already cluttered with the intricate diplomatic policies of several different countries, as the Australian WikiLeaks founder has sought to avoid facing charges of sexual assault in Sweden. "Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced from Quito, according to Reuters.
Patino said that Assange had written to President Rafael Correa that he was being politically persecuted. He wrote that he couldn’t seek help in his own country, Australia, because authorities won’t keep him from being extradited to "a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition,” a likely reference to the United States, the Associated Press reports.
Assange believes that the U.S. has secretly indicted him for releasing confidential American government documents through WikiLeaks and that he’ll be handed over if Sweden successfully extradites him.
Last week, the U.K. Supreme Court declined a request to reopen his appeal against extradition, which was his last shot in the British judicial system. His attorneys have said they plan to take the next step in the legal battle that has raged for more than a year and a half, which is to appeal the extradition request to the European Court of Human Rights.