Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.
After spending two months holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum by the South American country on Thursday, the Associated Press reports.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced Ecuador’s decision from Quito, citing concerns that Assange’s human rights would be violated if he is extradited to Sweden. The Australian hacker took refuge in the embassy in June, the latest chapter in his two-year quest to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces accusations of sexual assault. Assange believes that Sweden will hand him over to the United States, where he would be charged for the release of thousands of American diplomatic cables online.
Tensions between Ecuador and the U.K. have escalated because of the situation, reaching a peak on Wednesday, according to the BBC. Britain’s Foreign Office threatened to lift the diplomatic status of the embassy building in London, allowing police to arrest Assange, in order to fulfill "legal obligations" to Sweden. Ecuador balked at the threat, which many see as an overreach of power, saying, "We are not a British colony."
Despite his asylum status, Assange has no easy path out of the U.K. London’s Telegraph reports that diplomatic immunity applies to embassy vehicles, so Assange could get a ride to the airport. But, if he sets foot on the pavement he could be arrested, making the trip from the car to the plane an obstacle.
Most likely, Assange will continue to live in the embassy. According to the New York Times, he’s been staying on an air mattress in the small diplomatic office, which is located in an apartment building in London’s upscale Knightsbridge neighborhood.