WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted asylum from Ecuador after nearly two months of seeking refuge at the nation’s London embassy.
"The Ecuador government, loyal to its tradition to protect those who seek refuge with us at our diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Mr Assange," announced Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino at a news conference today.
The decision was made based on the assumed fate of Assange should he be extradited to Sweden, an order British officials are obligated to carry out once he leaves the safe haven of the embassy.
"If he were extradited to the United States, Mr Assange would not receive a fair trial and could be judged by special tribunals or military courts. As a result, Ecuador feels his arguments mean his fears are genuine, that he could be the victim of political persecution because of his decisive defense of the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.”
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While this announcement comes as a welcome victory to the former Australian computer hacker, the decision only guarantees him protection from British arrest on Ecuadorean territory, the New York Times reported.
"It is a significant victory for myself, and my people. Things will probably get more stressful now," Assange said.
Assange made international headlines back in June when he turned to Ecuador’s London embassy for asylum in an effort to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about two sexual assault allegations dating back to August 2010. He reportedly fears that this move would lead to his extradition to the US, where he could be tried over WikiLeaks’ 2010 mass release of top-secret documents and diplomatic cables.