LONDON Aug 19 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
prepared to weigh into the diplomatic standoff between Britain
and Ecuador on Sunday but may stay holed up in his refuge at the
Ecuadorean embassy to avoid arrest as workmen prepared a balcony
for his statement.
Ecuador has granted political asylum to the former computer
hacker who incensed the United States and its allies by using
his WikiLeaks website to leak hundreds of thousands of secret
U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010.
WikiLeaks had said that Assange would make a statement
outside the embassy, stirring speculation that he would be
arrested by British police who were patrolling in force outside
the red-brick legation in a wealthy district of London.
But a workman inside the embassy could be seen on Sunday
morning prising the hinges off a door leading to a small balcony
on the corner of the embassy, indicating that Assange could
avoid arrest by speaking from that perch.
"I cannot go into details of that for security reasons," a
spokesman for WikiLeaks said when asked how Assange would make
his statement at the embassy.
The former hacker is wanted in Sweden for questioning
regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault and Britain has
said he will not be granted safe passage out of his Ecuadorean
embassy refuge, which enjoys diplomatic status.
Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish jurist and prominent human rights
investigator who heads Assange's legal team, was also expected
to speak in a separate address outside the building ahead of
About 40 police officers were stationed outside the embassy
building on Sunday morning and a group of roughly 20 Assange
supporters, many of whom have slept on sheets of cardboard
outside the building since Wednesday, have decorated barriers
with messages of support for Assange.
Assange's attempt to avoid extradition has provoked a
diplomatic tussle between Britain and Ecuador, which said London
had threatened to raid its embassy and cast the dispute as an
arrogant European power treating a Latin American nation like a
Britain says the dispute is about its legal obligations and
that Assange should be extradited to Sweden. But Assange says he
fears he will be eventually sent to the United States though
Washington has so far kept its distance from the dispute.
"The United States views this as a matter to be resolved
between the British government, the Ecuadorean government and
the Swedish government," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said
to reporters travelling with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"At this point, we have not intervened in this matter and I
don't have any guidance for you right now on whether or not
that's something we would intervene in," Earnest said.