No Escape for Assange

PHOTO: Police outside London Ecuadorian Embassy
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You can check into the Ecuadorean embassy, but if you're Julian Assange, you can never leave.

As the WikiLeaks founder prepares to spend his third night in the upscale Knightsbridge flat that serves as Ecuador's London embassy, both U.K. police and outside experts say that whether or not the Ecuadorian government grants his asylum request, he faces almost certain arrest if he leaves the premises.

By violating his bail agreement in order to seek asylum, Assange has broken British law – and under British law, political asylum does not protect him from arrest, said Scotland Yard today.

"I am not aware of any agreements which would allow him safe passage out of the U.K.," a policeman stationed outside the embassy told the British press.

If Ecuador denies Assange's request and expels him from the apartment, which is just steps from the famed Harrod's department store, he will be arrested by the officers waiting outside and in the surrounding neighborhood.

If Ecuador grants Assange's request, Assange would have a hard time reaching Ecuadorian soil. On Twitter, British legal expert Carl Gardner mused: "It's hard to think how Assange could leave the embassy, escape arrest and get on a plane." Gardner mused that Assange might be immune if he were to become the UN representative for Ecuador and fly to New York.

"I'm not saying I'm sure it'd work," he clarified later. "It's just the only way I can think of."

The nearest international airport is Heathrow, a 40-minute drive from the Ecuadorean Embassy through central London.

In August 2010, police in Sweden began investigating accusations of sexual assault against Assange made by two women. According to British police documents, one of the accusers claims Assange pulled her clothes off, pinioned her arms and legs and refused to use a condom. She told a friend that the act was both violent and the worst sex she'd ever had. A British attorney representing Swedish prosecutors told the court earlier this year that Assange had raped the second woman while she was sleeping.

Assange has denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, the British Supreme Court upheld the validity of a Swedish prosecutor's arrest warrant, and he is subject to extradition to Sweden by the end of June.

Assange had been living under house arrest at the mansion of a supporter in the English countryside and was subject to an overnight curfew.

By spending Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the embassy, he violated the terms of his bail and is subject to arrest if he exits the Embassy's property. He has also forfeited the $380,000 bail donated by his supporters.

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The Ecuadorean government says it is weighing Assange's asylum request. Assange's supporters say that he fears extradition from Sweden to the U.S. for prosecution in connection with leaking thousands of classified U.S. documents. Assange claims he is being targeted for committing "political crimes" and said Tuesday after seeking asylum that the U.S. is a "place with the death penalty for said offenses."

Ecuador's Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Wednesday night that his government expected a decision by noon Thursday. "The president will give us his instructions tomorrow," said Albuja. No decision has yet been made public

"We have to see if Julian Assange´s life is endangered in the court cases he faces," said President Rafael Correa in a BBC Mundo interview released this afternoon.

In a statement released yesterday, however, Anna Alban, the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the U.K., said, "It is not the intention of the Ecuadorian government to interfere with the processes of either the U.K. or Swedish governments."

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