Wikileaks founder Julian Assange faces arrest, police say

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Protestors at Ecuadorian embassyImage source, PA
Image caption,
Demonstrators gathered outside the Ecuadorian embassy to protest against the potential extradition of Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is seeking asylum at Ecuador's London embassy, faces arrest for breaching his bail, police say.

Mr Assange, 40, whose conditions included staying at his bail address between 2200 and 0800 BST, spent Tuesday night at the embassy.

Last week he failed to reopen an appeal against his extradition to Sweden.

Mr Assange, wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations, denies any wrongdoing.

Ecuador had said it was "studying and analysing" Mr Assange's request for asylum.

'Without merit'

Mr Assange's website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses.

Mr Assange fears if he is sent to Sweden it may then lead to him being sent to the US to face charges over Wikileaks, for which he could face the death penalty.

Two female Wikileaks supporters alleged in 2010 that Mr Assange had attacked them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture. No charges have been filed.

Mr Assange claims the sex was consensual and that the allegations are politically motivated.

Last Thursday, seven judges at the UK's Supreme Court dismissed Mr Assange's attempt to reopen his extradition appeal as being "without merit".

The Australian has until 28 June to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. His lawyer, Dinah Rose QC, said he was considering whether to do this.

Swedish authorities have said the ECHR would intervene if Mr Assange was to face the prospect of "inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial" in the US.

'Extraordinary twist'

As part of Mr Assange's bail conditions, securities totalling £200,000 were lodged at City of Westminster Magistrates Court.

A further £40,000 put up as sureties are thought to have been provided by socialite Jemima Khan and film director Ken Loach, who each offered £20,000.

Lawyers say bail would only be forfeited if Mr Assange failed to turn up for a scheduled court appearance.

BBC News legal correspondent Clive Coleman said that, as Mr Assange had broken the condition of his bail that he live at a friend's house in Norfolk, he could be arrested and brought before a court.

Media caption,

Peter Jorro, an immigration lawyer, said Mr Assange probably feels Ecuador is more sympathetic to his stand vis-a-vis the United States

Gavin MacFadyen, a visiting professor at City University, London, who has been to see Mr Assange at the embassy, said his friend was "very grateful" for its help.

"He's in very good humour and the generosity of the embassy is impressive and moving," he said.

A small group of protesters, waving placards with messages including "free Assange, no rendition" have gathered outside the embassy, in Knightsbridge.

Meanwhile, Ecuador - whose President Rafael Correa has previously clashed with Washington and is a fan of Wikileaks - had said it would consult the UK, Sweden and the US before deciding on Mr Assange's asylum request.

Our correspondent said Mr Assange faced an "uphill struggle" in persuading Ecuador to grant him asylum, as he would have to show he was being persecuted for his political beliefs.

UK government representatives met the Ecuadorian Ambassador Anna Alban at the Foreign Office on Wednesday for talks Ms Alban described as "cordial and constructive".

She added: "I welcome the statement from the UK government last night [Tuesday] in which they stated that they would work with the Ecuadorian government to find a resolution.

"I also emphasised to the UK government that it was not the intention of the Ecuadorian government to interfere with the processes of either the UK or Swedish governments.

"The decision on Mr Assange's application [will] be assessed by the department of foreign affairs in Quito and would take into account Ecuador's long and well-established tradition in supporting human rights."

Media caption,

The end of Julian Assange's interview with Ecuador's president on Russia Today

Mr Assange will remain at the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorean government while the department assesses his application.

In April 2011, Ecuador expelled the US ambassador in Quito after Wikileaks published an American diplomatic document alleging widespread corruption within the Ecuadorean police force.

Earlier this year, Mr Assange interviewed Mr Correa on the Australian's chat show on the Russia Today TV channel.

Orlando Perez, editor of Ecuador's pro-government newspaper El Telegrafo, told BBC Mundo that, during the interview, "empathy really appeared between them" and it was at that moment that seeking political asylum with Mr Correa "came to Assange's mind".