Assange faces arrest even if he gets asylum
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has no way of leaving his refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London without being arrested, even if Quito grants him asylum shortly, lawyers say.
The Australian has been in the embassy for eight weeks since losing a legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted to stand trial for rape.
President Rafael Correa, who is openly sympathetic to Assange, is expected to decide on his asylum request this week. However, approval would offer no legal protection in Britain where police will arrest him once they get a chance.
Assange, who is also liable to arrest for skipping bail, would still have to find a way of getting from central London to South America without passing through British territory. "I think the UK will see their obligations under the European extradition system as overriding any diplomatic relations with Ecuador, who haven't really been considering their diplomatic relations with the UK," said Rebecca Niblock, an extradition specialist at London law firm Kingsley Napley.
Assange would be protected from arrest if travelling in a diplomatic car, but the embassy is on the first floor of a building that is being watched by police day and night.
The property has several gated entrances and a private car park, but the Ecuadorean embassy is not linked internally with any of them, making the front entrance its only point of exit, a security manager at the building told Reuters.
He added: "He can climb out of a window, of course, but there are CCTV cameras everywhere." Even if he somehow managed to get out of the building and into a waiting car unnoticed, he would have to leave the vehicle to board a flight out of Britain, offering more opportunities for his arrest.
Other scenarios lawyers are discussing include smuggling him out in a diplomatic bag, which would be illegal, or appointing him as an Ecuadorean diplomat to give him immunity. But lawyers and diplomats said neither was realistic.
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