UPDATE (AP) - Britain still says it will arrest Assange if he leaves embassy
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) -- Ecuador says it's giving asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
But the decision won't have any immediate effect on the standoff at the embassy, since British authorities are still vowing to arrest him if he leaves the embassy and extradite him to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault allegations. Still, Britain says it's disappointed by the decision.
Sweden is reacting angrily to the move by Ecuador. It has summoned Ecuador's ambassador, and is calling the asylum decision "unacceptable."
Ecuador's foreign minister says Ecuador found that Assange faces a real threat of political persecution including the threat of extradition to the United States, where he says the Australian would not get a fair trial and could face the death penalty.
Assange gained worldwide prominence after his website repeatedly released huge troves of U.S. secret documents. The moves outraged Americans and led to calls from U.S. politicians to have him hunted down like a terrorist.
(ABC NEWS) - Ecuador will grant political asylum for Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, the South American country's foreign ministry announced today.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy on June 19, after a U.K. court declined to block his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sexual assaults.
Assange has said he fears that Sweden will hand him over to the United States. WikiLeaks has released thousands of confidential U.S. documents on the web, including many State Department cables.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced in Quito that Julian Assange is seeking asylum at Ecuador's embassy in London, and that Ecuador's government is studying the request.
To get to Ecuador, however, Assange still have to get from the embassy, which is considered Ecuadorean soil, to an airport to board a flight to South America without being arrested by British police.
According to BBC News, a Foreign Office spokesman said Wednesday the U.K. government is "committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."
The British government has also reportedly reminded the Ecuadorean government that under law it can revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy, which would enable officials to enter the building and apprehend Assange.