Wikileaks founder and International Man of Weirdness Julian Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño just announced. While Mr. Patiño said he hoped Britain would permit Mr. Assange to leave the embassy in London for Ecuador, Britain rejected this request, saying it has a legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden, where he is wanted to face questioning about allegations of sexual misbehavior and general weirdness.
Senior Ecuadorean sources as well as sources close to Mr. Assange himself have said the move was precipitated by several failed negotiations between Ecuador and the Swedish government to assure that Assange would not be extradited from Sweden to the United States following questioning about the alleged sexual misbehavior. Assange reportedly offered to travel to Sweden for questioning upon the condition that he not be sent to the US thereafter to face charges for espionage. Sweden, however, said no dice, and the Ecuadorian government now seeks to move Assange from its embassy in London to Ecuador.
Mr. Assange arrived at the modest apartment that serves as Ecuador’s embassy in London’s tony Knightsbridge neighborhood on June 19, 2012. He sleeps on an air mattress there in a small office that has been converted to a bedroom, which we imagine is a little awkward given what a terrible houseguest he is known to be. In a hard-hitting report that is definitely relevant to Assange’s asylum status, The New York Times states that Assange, who previously lived a nomadic existence staying in the homes of friends, has developed a reputation as a “unique houseguest.”” The Grey Lady notes today that back in 2011 Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who ran WikiLeaks with Mr. Assange until the two had a falling-out in 2010, accused Mr. Assange of staying uninvited for several months and of abusing his cat. Perhaps more disturbing, though, is that Assange reportedly “refused to flush the toilet during his entire stay.” No word on whether this was a #2 offense or merely #1.
Britain caused controversy earlier this week by threatening to storm the embassy in a bid to arrest Assange, the BBC reports. “Today we have received from the United Kingdom an explicit threat in writing that they could assault our embassy in London if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange,” Mr. Patiño said at a news conference in Quito, Ecuador. “We are not a British colony.”
Tensions in London continue to mount today as Assange’s supporters have taken to the streets to protest. Many of the protesters are carrying “I’m Julian” and “Free Assange” signs in solidarity with the controversial figure, while others are simply voicing their outrage over Assange’s bizarre lapses in personal hygiene.
[Update: The New York Times has now scrubbed all mentions of Assange’s cat abuse and toilet flushing habits from their article.]