WikiLeaks' Assange reportedly granted asylum by Ecuador

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange will reportedly receive asylum from the Ecuadorean government, according to a U.K. newspaper. But the country's president takes to Twitter to say no decision has been made.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. PT

WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange reportedly has been granted asylum by the Ecuadorean government.

"Ecuador will grant asylum to Julian Assange," an unnamed official in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito told the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper today. No official announcement, however, has been made.

Assange has been camped out in Ecuador's embassy in London for the last two months as the country considers his asylum request , which is based in part on a claim that his native Australia has effectively abandoned him.

The British courts have ordered that Assange be extradited to Sweden to face questioning relating to "overraskningssex," which his lawyers have translated as "sex by surprise." One Swedish woman has claimed Assange had sex with her after a condom broke, and another has accused him of having sex without one in the first place.

Ecuador was expected to make an announcement soon, after the country's president, Rafael Correa, told a local television station this week that a decision was imminent.

It's unclear, however, what the practical effect of a grant of asylum would be, and how Ecuador would extract Assange from London. British officials have signaled that they would arrest him for breaching his bail conditions if he leaves the embassy -- meaning he would not be granted safe passage to an international airport.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is piecing together a case against him for publishing classified Army and State Department files allegedly provided by soldier Bradley Manning, who is facing criminal charges .

A CNET analysis in December 2010 showed that Assange could be held liable under the Espionage Act, but that the 1917-era law itself could violate the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press. Justice Department prosecutors appear to be attempting to build a conspiracy charge against Assange in hopes of avoiding some of the free speech problems.

Update 2:45 p.m. PT: President Rafael Correa said on Twitter a few minutes ago that the "rumor" regarding action on Assange's asylum request is false and that no decision has been made. ("Rumor de asilo a Assange es falso. Todavía no hay ninguna decisión al respecto.")

 

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