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Edward Snowden says he would love to get asylum in Switzerland.
The fugitive US whistleblower was speaking via video link to a Geneva audience, from Moscow where he is sheltering from US prosecutors.
“I would love to return to Switzerland, some of my favorite memories are from Geneva,” Edward Snowden said. Previously he worked in Geneva undercover for the CIA.
Edward Snowden, wanted for leaking US secrets, said US authorities had given him no assurances of a fair trial.
“The only thing they’ve said at this point was that they would not execute me,” he said.
“That’s not quite the same thing as agreeing to a fair and open trial.”
He was speaking to the audience after a viewing of Citizenfour, an Oscar-winning documentary about his case. In 2013 his exposure of massive US surveillance – including routine tapping of internet traffic – grabbed the headlines worldwide.
It was an unprecedented leak by an insider in the top-secret US National Security Agency (NSA).
“I do think Switzerland would be a sort of great political option because it has a history of neutrality,” Edward Snowden told the Geneva audience.
Edward Snowden said he had requested asylum in 21 countries, most in Central and Eastern Europe, but none had granted his wish. He blamed US “political interference”.
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President Vladimir Putin has said the US authorities have in effect trapped Edward Snowden in Russia.
Vladimir Putin said fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden would leave if he was able to.
The 30-year-old former intelligence analyst has been offered asylum in a number of Latin American states, but has no documents with which to leave the transit zone at Moscow airport.
The US has charged Edward Snowden with leaking classified information.
Vladimir Putin has refused to hand over the fugitive to the US authorities, but says he can only stay in Russia if he stops leaking secrets about US surveillance schemes.
The Russian president said there were signs that Edward Snowden was “changing his position”.
However, he added that Edward Snowden did not want to stay in Russia but wanted to take up residence in “another country”.
Asked what Edward Snowden’s future was, the Russian president said: “How should I know? It’s his life.”
“He came to our territory without invitation. And we weren’t his final destination… But the moment he was in the air… our American partners, in fact, blocked his further flight,” Vladimir Putin said.
“They have spooked all the other countries, nobody wants to take him and in that way, in fact, they have themselves blocked him on our territory.”
Edward Snowden has been stuck in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong in June
Edward Snowden has been stuck in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport – reportedly staying at the airport’s Capsule Hotel – since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23.
The American has sent requests for political asylum to at least 21 countries, most of which have turned down his request.
However, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have indicated they could take him in.
But Edward Snowden is unable to leave the transit zone without asylum documents, a valid passport or a Russian visa – he reportedly has none of these.
And some European countries are likely to close their airspace to any plane suspected of carrying the fugitive.
At a news conference on Friday, Edward Snowden said he was seeking temporary asylum in Russia before he could safely travel to Latin America. However, Moscow officials say they have so far received no such request.
Edward Snowden’s leaking of thousands of classified US intelligence documents has led to revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.
The documents have also indicated that both the UK and French intelligence agencies allegedly run similarly vast data collection operations, and the US has been eavesdropping on official EU communications.
Edward Snowden has been holding a meeting with leading human rights groups and lawyers at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.
The fugitive US intelligence leaker requested the meeting with around 10 activists in the airport transit zone.
Edward Snowden told activists he was seeking political asylum in Russia. He had earlier dropped his application when Moscow said he could stay only if he stopped leaking US secrets.
The Kremlin reiterated this condition on Friday.
“Mr. Snowden could hypothetically stay in Russia if he first, completely stops the activities harming our American partners and US-Russian relations and second, if he asks for this himself,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Edward Snowden is wanted by the US on charges of leaking secrets about US surveillance schemes.
He has sent requests for political asylum to at least 21 countries, most of which have turned down his request.
However, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela have indicated they could take him in.
It is thought he is considering seeking political asylum in Russia because he cannot fly out of Moscow.
Edward Snowden has been holding a meeting with leading human rights groups and lawyers at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow
“He wants to stay here until he can fly to Latin America,” Tatyana Lokshina of Human Rights Watch is quoted as saying.
Edward Snowden, 30, is unable to leave the transit zone without asylum documents, a valid passport or a Russian visa, none of which he reportedly has.
He has reportedly been stuck in transit since arriving in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23.
On Friday, the first photo in three weeks of Edward Snowden emerged. It was taken by Tatyana Lokshina during the airport meeting.
Other activists present at the gathering included Sergei Nikitin, the head of Amnesty International’s Russia office, prominent Moscow lawyer Genri Reznik and Russia’s presidential human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin.
A large press scrum gathered at the airport ahead of the meeting, while Interfax reported Edward Snowden had moved from his room in the airport’s Capsule Hotel to attend the meeting.
Tatyana Lokshina earlier posted the text of Edward Snowden’s invitation email on her Facebook page.
In the message, Edward Snowden complained that the US government was waging an “unlawful campaign” to prevent him from securing asylum.
“This dangerous escalation represents a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America or my own personal security, but to the basic right shared by every living person to live free from persecution,” the message read.
The email said the fugitive wanted to discuss the “next steps forward” in his situation.
It also instructed those attending to bring a copy of the invite and identification papers, as “security will likely be tight at this meeting”.
The meeting was not open to the press. Edward Snowden said he planned to address journalists at a later stage.
Edward Snowden had previously applied for Russian asylum but President Vladimir Putin said he would only be welcome if he stopped “his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners”.
Even if a country accepted Edward Snowden’s application, getting there could prove difficult.
Last week, several European countries refused to allow the jet of Bolivian president Evo Morales to cross their airspace on its way back from Moscow – apparently because of suspicions that Edward Snowden was on board.
Washington seeks to prosecute Edward Snowden over the leaking of thousands of classified US intelligence documents.
The leaks have led to revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.
They have also revealed that both the UK and French intelligence agencies allegedly run similarly vast data collection operations, and the US has been eavesdropping on official EU communications.
The case has strained relations between the US and China.
President Barack Obama said on Thursday he was “disappointed” that China had chosen not to hand over Edward Snowden to the US authorities when he was in Hong Kong in June.
A US government official said the decision had undermined calls for co-operation between the two countries.
But China said Hong Kong – which allowed Edward Snowden to leave for Russia – had acted in accordance with the territory’s law.
“Its approach is beyond reproach,” Chinese state councillor Yang Jiechi said.
According to a Russian politician, Edward Snowden has accepted an offer of political asylum from Venezuela.
Unofficial spokesman for the Kremlin Alexei Pushkov tweeted today that Edward Snowden, believed to be in Russia and wanted by the US authorities for leaking security secrets, is keen to take up the offer, AP reported.
The tweet was removed a few minutes after it was posted.
Soon after the tweet’s disappearance he sent another message saying his claim was based on a report from the state all-news television channel Vesti.
However, no such information could be found on Vesti’s website and no Russian news agency reported that Vesti had ever said it.
The TV channel could not immediately be reached for comment and the Kremlin declined comment on today’s developments.
Edward Snowden, 30, who revealed details of a US intelligence program to monitor internet activity, went to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on June 23 and was believed to be headed for Cuba.
But he did not board that flight is believed to have been stranded in the airport’s transit lounge ever since.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had already offered asylum to Edward Snowden while Bolivia and Nicaragua said they too would grant asylum to the American fugitive.
Ecuador said it will consider any asylum request.
Nicolas Maduro said it is perhaps the world’s “first collective humanitarian asylum” with various countries saying: “Come here!”
But the United States has cancelled Edward Snowden’s passport and it is unclear if he has travel documents he would need to leave Moscow.
Edward Snowden has accepted an offer of political asylum from Venezuela
Nicolas Maduro said Edward Snowden “will have to decide when he flies here, if he finally wants to travel here”.
On Friday he said: “As head of state, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden so that he can live (without) … persecution from the empire.”
Nicolas Maduro made the offer during a speech marking the anniversary of Venezuela’s independence. It was not immediately clear if there were any conditions to Venezuela’s offer.
“In the name of America’s dignity … I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to Edward Snowden,” Nicolas Maduro proclaimed during a military parade marking the country’s Independence Day.
“He is a young man who has told the truth, in the spirit of rebellion, about the United States spying on the whole world,” Nicolas Maduro said.
But the Obama administration said yesterday that U.S. diplomats are working behind the scenes to make it difficult for Edward Snowden to find safe harbor in any of the nations that have offered him asylum.
Edward Snowden has received a temporary travel document to fly to Caracas, Venezuela, and both Bolivia and Nicaragua have also offered him political asylum, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during his regular briefing that the United States will do what it can to stop him.
“The United States has been in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Mr. Snowden might transit or which might serve as final destinations for Mr. Snowden,” Jay Carney said.
U.S. diplomats, he added, have “made very clear that he has been charged with a felony, or with felonies, and, as such, he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than travel that would result in him returning to the United States”.
It’s not clear whether the Obama administration is hoping a Latin American nation will double-cross Snowden and offer him up to Washington after he arrives from Russia.
But the U.S., Jay Carney said, is still working to persuade Moscow to short-circuit the process and turn the fugitive over before he can leave Moscow’s Sheremetyevo-2 airport.
Sources say Edward Snowden will not be allowed to board the only Aeroflot plane that offers direct connections to Caracas, a regular service to Cuban capital Havana.
The routing overflies both the EU and the US and there are fears the plane will be denied rights to Western airspace, and forced to land, leading to Edward Snowden’s arrest.
The direct distance from Moscow to Caracas is 6,175 miles but it appeared too far for Edward Snowden.
The escape route for Edward Snowden is fraught with problems.
With Russia getting publicly impatient with Edward Snowden’s presence in its transit zone, his escape route is a logistical nightmare.
“Instead of going west to Venezuela, his obvious option is east to Vladivostok and then across the Pacific to Caracas,” said one source.
It would mean Russia allowing him to formally enter its territory, which so far it has refused to do, unwilling to upset the US.
This would also involve a 14,200 mile detour and a routing that would bring him close to the US state of Hawaii posing a risk to any private plane willing to take him on a route where there are no scheduled services.
One option for the fugitive is to charter a private plane.
Former CIA analyst Allen Thomson said: “A private plane certainly looks like the best bet to me.”
“It has the advantage of simplicity and minimum involvement by the Russian government,” Mother Jones reported.
As Allen Thomson told Foreign Policy, Edward Snowden could avoid US-influenced airspace by flying north to the Barents Sea, through the Denmark Strait, head soutwhile avoiding Canada’s Newfoundland, until getting to the east of the Windward Islands, then squeezing through between islands.
Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered political asylum to US fugitive Edward Snowden.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said his country would give asylum Edward Snowden, who is believed to be holed up in a transit area of Moscow airport.
Meanwhile Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his country would do so “if circumstances permit”.
WikiLeaks said Edward Snowden had applied to six additional countries on Friday.
The whistleblowing website said it would not name the countries “due to attempted US interference”.
Edward Snowden, 30, has already asked 21 countries for asylum, most of whom have turned down his request.
But even if a country accepted the American’s application, getting there could prove difficult as the European airspace could be closed to any aircraft suspected of carrying the fugitive.
Earlier this week, several European countries reportedly refused to allow the Bolivian president’s jet to cross their airspace on its way back from Moscow – apparently because of suspicions that Edward Snowden was on board.
President Nicolas Maduro made his announcement in a speech on Venezuela’s Independence Day.
“As head of state and government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young US citizen Edward Snowden so he can come to the fatherland of Bolivar and Chavez to live away from the imperial North American persecution,” Nicolas Maduro said.
The US wants to prosecute Edward Snowden over the leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents.
Nicaragua and Venezuela have offered political asylum to US fugitive Edward Snowden
Earlier Daniel Ortega said Nicaragua had received an application at its embassy in Moscow.
“We are open, respectful of the right to asylum, and it is clear that if circumstances permit it, we would receive Snowden with pleasure and give him asylum here in Nicaragua,” Agence France-Presse quoted the Nicaraguan president as saying.
Daniel Ortega was a fierce opponent of the US during his first period as Nicaragua’s president in the 1980s, after the left-wing Sandinista movement came to power.
Bolivia, which had also suggested it might offer Edward Snowden asylum, saw its presidential plane barred from European airspace on Tuesday.
There was speculation Edward Snowden was on the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales back from Russia to La Paz earlier this week.
“Edward Snowden has applied to another six countries for asylum,” tweeted WikiLeaks, which has been helping the former CIA contractor.
“They will not be named at this time due to attempted US interference.”
The US has been blamed for being behind the decision by France, Portugal, Italy and Spain to close its airspace to Bolivia’s president, whose plane was grounded in Austria for 13 hours as a result.
Earlier on Friday, Spain’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo admitted he and the other European countries had been told that Edward Snowden was on board – but refused to say who gave out the information.
He denied Spain had closed its airspace to the presidential plane, explaining that the delay in Austria meant the flight permit had expired and needed to be renewed.
His comment is the first official recognition by the European states that the incident with Evo Morales’ plane was connected with the Snowden affair.
It has been widely condemned by President Morales and several other South American nations, who were critical of the US.
Evo Snowden arrived in the Moscow airport from Hong Kong last month.
He revealed himself to be responsible for the leaking of classified US intelligence documents that revealed a vast surveillance programme of phone and web data.
The documents have also led to allegations that both the UK and French intelligence agencies run similarly vast data collection operations, and the US has been eavesdropping on official EU communications.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said US would be “disappointing” if Russia and China had helped fugitive Edward Snowden evade US attempts to extradite him from Hong Kong.
Speaking during a visit to India, John Kerry said there would inevitably be “consequences” to such a move.
Edward Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow on Sunday.
A seat was booked in his name on a flight to Cuba on Monday morning, but he is not thought to have boarded.
Edward Snowden has applied to Ecuador for political asylum, but the country’s foreign minister has implied he is still in Russia.
And speaking at a news briefing later on Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “It is our understanding that he [Edward Snowden] is still in Russia.”
He added that senior US officials were briefing President Barack Obama regularly about all the developments.
Edward Snowden, 30, is wanted by the US for revealing to the media details of a secret government surveillance programme, which he obtained while working as an IT contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA).
He is charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence.
Speaking during a visit to Delhi in India, John Kerry told reporters it would “be obviously disappointing if he was willfully allowed to board an airplane”.
“As a result there would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences.”
Edward Snowden is believed to have spent the night in an airside hotel at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. The US has revoked his passport and wants Russia to hand him over.
John Kerry urged Moscow to “live by the standards of the law because that’s in the interests of everybody”.
John Kerry has said US would be “disappointing” if Russia and China had helped fugitive Edward Snowden evade US attempts to extradite him from Hong Kong
“In the last two years we have transferred seven prisoners to Russia that they wanted so I think reciprocity and the enforcement of the law is pretty important,” he said.
The decision not to “provisionally arrest” Edward Snowden in Hong Kong “unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship”, he said.
He added that senior US officials were briefing President Barack Obama regularly about all the developments, and called on Russia to use all options to expel the former US spy agency contractor.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Interfax state news agency quoted an informed source as saying Moscow was considering a US extradition request, but that Edward Snowden had not officially crossed the Russian border so could not be detained.
Edward Snowden was in hiding in Hong Kong when his leaks were first published.
During a visit to Vietnam on earlier Monday, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino read out a letter Edward Snowden had sent to request asylum, in which he said he was “at risk of being persecuted by the US and its agents”.
Ricardo Patino confirmed that his country was processing an asylum request from Edward Snowden.
Quito was in contact with Moscow who could “make the decision it feels is most convenient in accordance with its laws and politics and in accordance with the international laws and norms that could be applied to this case”, he said.
When asked whether he knew of Edward Snowden’s current location he declined to answer.
“We will consider the position of the US government and we will take a decision in due course,” he said, saying Ecuador put the protection of human rights “above any other interest”.
The US and Ecuador have a joint extradition treaty, but it is not applicable to “crimes or offences of a political character”.
Edward Snowden is being supported by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, which said on Sunday that he was heading to Ecuador accompanied by some of its diplomats and legal advisers.
Ecuador is already giving political asylum at its London embassy to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – which he denies.
On Monday, Julian Assange said Edward Snowden was “healthy and safe”, and travelling to Ecuador “via a safe path through Russia and other states”.
He said Edward Snowden had left Hong Kong on a refugee document of passage issued by Ecuador, and was not carrying any NSA secrets with him.
Edward Snowden’s leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under an NSA programme known as PRISM.
He earlier said he had decided to speak out after observing “a continuing litany of lies” from senior officials to Congress.
US officials have defended the practice of gathering telephone and internet data from private users around the world.
They say PRISM cannot be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the US, and that it is supervised by judges.
John McAfee, the founder of anti-virus software maker McAfee, has been arrested in Guatemala, accused of entering the country illegally.
John McAfee, 67, crossed the border to seek political asylum, having been on the run in Belize where police are investigating the death of his neighbor.
Belize officials said the software pioneer was a “person of interest” in the murder of Florida businessman Gregory Faull on 11 November.
John McAfee has protested his innocence.
He says on his blog that he has been “harassed” by police, and that this was the reason he fled Belize. There is no international arrest warrant for multi-millionaire fugitive.
Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said John McAfee was arrested at a hotel in an affluent area of the capital, Guatemala City.
Appearing in public for the first time in weeks on Tuesday, John McAfee and his lawyer had said he would petition the Guatemalan government to stay there.
“Belize does not have a good track record of providing safety when they ask to question you. I felt much more secure crossing the border,” said John McAfee.
John McAfee, the founder of anti-virus software maker McAfee, has been arrested in Guatemala, accused of entering the country illegally
He reportedly checked into the five star Villa Real Hotel in Guatemala City earlier on Wednesday having sneaked out of Belize.
John McAfee revealed that in order to go unnoticed, he changed his appearance by dying his hair and beard, sticking chewed bubble gum to his upper gums to fatten his face and staining his teeth.
Gregory Faull was found dead with a single gunshot to the head on 11 November. His Belize home sits next to John McAfee’s compound on a tropical island.
The US software creator is known to have had a long-running row with Gregory Faull about the guard dogs he used to protect his compound.
He denies any involvement in the businessman’s death and says he went into hiding so he could stay close to his Belize home and conduct his own investigation into Gregory Faull’s death, adding that he had little faith that the island’s police would find the murderer.
In an interview with NBC, John McAfee offered a reward of $25,000 for the capture of the “person or persons” behind the killing.
John McAfee has led an eccentric life since he sold his stake in the anti-virus software company that bears his name in the early 1990s.
He moved to Belize about three years ago seeking lower taxes and has lived in semi-seclusion on a heavily guarded compound until recently.
Ecuador has granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in country’s London embassy while fighting extradition from the UK.
It said there were fears Julian Assange’s human rights might be violated.
Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino accused the UK of making an “open threat” to enter its embassy to arrest him.
Julian Assange took refuge at the embassy in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over assault and rape claims, which he denies.
The Foreign Office said the decision on Julian Assange’s application for political asylum would not affect the UK’s legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden.
It tweeted: “We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act.”
Ecuador has granted asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange two months after he took refuge in country’s London embassy
The UK government will still seek to arrest him and it will not grant him safe passage. If he steps out, he will be arrested.
Announcing Ecuador’s decision, Ricardo Patino said the country believed Julian Assange’s fears of political persecution were “legitimate”.
He said the country was being loyal to its tradition of protecting those who were vulnerable.
“We trust that our friendship with the United Kingdom will remain intact,” he added.
The announcement was watched live by Julian Assange and embassy staff in a link to a press conference from Quito.
Outside Ecuador’s embassy in London, news was slowly spreading through Julian Assange’s assembled supporters and they were delighted.
“The political temperature has risen very significantly. It is clear this is only the beginning of a very long legal contest,” he said.
There was now a “complete standoff” between the UK and Ecuador regarding the status of the embassy in London.
The British government now had to make a decision, adding that the risks were enormous – including making other embassies around the world vulnerable.
Julian Assange entered the embassy after the UK’s Supreme Court dismissed the Australian national’s bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start.
It was during that fortnight, while on bail, that he sought refuge.
A subsequent offer by Ecuador to allow Swedish investigators to interview Julian Assange inside the embassy was rejected.
The WikiLeaks website Julian Assange founded published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments, particularly the US’s, in 2010.
Earlier, the UK Foreign Office warned it could lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to fulfill a “legal obligation” to extradite the 41-year-old by using the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.
That allows the UK to revoke the diplomatic status of an embassy on UK soil, which would potentially allow police to enter the building to arrest Julian Assange for breaching the terms of his bail.
Julian Assange says he fears that if extradited to Sweden, he will then be passed on to the American authorities.
In 2010, two female ex-WikiLeaks volunteers accused Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, of committing sexual offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture.
Julian Assange claims the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is seeking political asylum at Ecuador’s London embassy, the country’s foreign minister has said.
“Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters in Quito.
On 14 June, Britain’s Supreme Court dismissed Julian Assange’s bid to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes.
He has denied the allegations, saying they are politically motivated.
The Supreme Court has given him until 28 June before extradition proceedings can start.
Swedish prosecutors want to question him over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former Wikileaks volunteers in mid-2010 but have not filed any charges.
Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, claims the sex was consensual.
Julian Assange is seeking political asylum at Ecuador's London embassy
In a statement, Ecuador’s embassy said he had arrived there on Tuesday afternoon to seek asylum.
“As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito,” it said.
“While the department assesses Mr. Assange’s application, Mr. Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorean government.”
It said the decision to consider the bid for asylum “should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.”
Julian Assange issued a statement, saying he was “grateful to the Ecuadorean ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application”.
Associated Press quoted Ricardo Patino as telling reporters Julian Assange had written to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa saying he was being persecuted.
Ricardo Patino said that the Australian had claimed “the authorities in his country will not defend his minimum guarantees in front of any government”.
Julian Assange said he would not be protected from being extradited to “a foreign country that applies the death penalty for the crime of espionage and sedition,” Ricardo Patino said.
The anti-secrecy campaigner fears extradition to Sweden may lead to him being sent to the US to face separate charges relating to Wikileaks, for which he could face the death penalty.
But Swedish authorities have said the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) would intervene if Julian Assange was to face the prospect of “inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial” in the US.
Julian Assange could still take his case against extradition to the ECHR and has until 28 June to make the move.
Vaughan Smith, a friend who put Julian Assange up at his Norfolk home until December 2011, said he understood why he was seeking asylum.
“There’s been an organized campaign to undermine him in recent months in Britain,” Vaughan Smith said.
“And he believed he would not get justice in Sweden.”
Wikileaks has posted an alert on its Twitter feed: “ALERT: Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.”
It said Ecuador had offered asylum as early as November 2010.
Ecuador’s deputy foreign minister said in 2010 his country was offering Julian Assange residency because it wanted to give him the opportunity to freely present the information he had.
However, President Rafael Correa subsequently dismissed the idea, which he said neither he nor Ricardo Patino had approved.
Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng has left the US embassy in Beijing, a week after seeking shelter following his escape from house arrest.
State news agency Xinhua said Chen Guangcheng left “of his own volition”. He is having a check-up at a Beijing hospital. His lawyer said he was “happy” and “free”.
The announcement came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in China for high-level annual talks.
Hillary Clinton said Chen Guangcheng’s departure “reflected his choices and our values”.
“The United States government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks, and years ahead,” Hillary Clinton said in a statement.
Chen Guangcheng’s case threatened to overshadow the talks, which are due to focus on issues like Syria and trade.
US officials were said to have been in talks with their Chinese counterparts ahead of the announcement.
Chen Guangcheng is having a check-up at a Beijing hospital after he left US embassy
After leaving the US embassy, the Chinese dissident had a telephone call with Hillary Clinton in which he said: “I want to kiss you.”
Chen Guangcheng’s lawyer Li Jinsong said he had spoken to his client on the phone. He said Chen Guangcheng was “very happy and wants to hug all his friends”. Li Jinsong said the dissident had told him he now had “true freedom”, his rights were now protected by the national law and he was “a free citizen”.
Chen Guangcheng’s wife said she and their two children were well.
A US official said Chen Gunagcheng was to stay in China where he had been promised a “safe” place.
Neither Beijing nor Washington had confirmed Chen Guangcheng’s whereabouts.
The US official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the dissident had gone into the embassy because he needed medical care and had not requested political asylum.
“China acknowledged that Mr. Chen will be treated humanely while he remains in China,” the official said.
“When he leaves the hospital, the Chinese authorities have stated that Mr. Chen and his family will be relocated to a safe environment so that he may attend a university to pursue a course of study,” he said.
“This was an extraordinary case involving exceptional circumstances, and we do not anticipate that it will be repeated,” the official said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin earlier said Chen Guangcheng had been taken into the US embassy “via abnormal measures” and the Chinese authorities were “strongly dissatisfied”.
Chen Guangcheng, who has been blind since childhood, has long been a high-profile figure and international rights groups have frequently expressed alarm at the treatment of him and his family.
He was placed under house arrest in 2010 after spending more than four years in jail for disrupting traffic and damaging property.
Chen Guangcheng exposed how local authorities in Linyi, in Shandong province, forced thousands of women to have abortions or be sterilized as part of China’s one-child policy
His colleagues said the escape from house arrest had taken months to plan, and was carried out with the help of a network of friends and activists.
Chen Guangcheng scaled the wall that the authorities had built around his house, and was driven hundreds of miles to Beijing, where activists say he stayed in safe houses before fleeing to the embassy.
Several people involved in Chen Guangcheng’s escape have been detained or have disappeared in recent days.
Cuban actors Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua, who defected to the US, emerged from hiding a week after they had gone missing at Miami airport during a stop-over on the way to a film festival in New York.
Speaking on a Spanish-language TV channel in Miami, they said they would seek political asylum in the US.
Several Cuban artists have defected to pursue careers outside their country.
The two 20-year-old actors star in the film Una Noche (One Night), which depicts three Cuban teenagers trying to escape the poverty of their homeland to begin a new life in Miami. Una Noche tells the story of three young Cubans attempting to make their way from Havana to Miami by raft. It was filmed on location with the permission and cooperation of the Cuban government.
Javier Nunez Florian and Anailin de la Rua, who defected to the US, emerged from hiding a week after they had gone missing at Miami airport
Before their appearance on Miami-based Spanish-language channel America TeVe on Friday night, they had last been seen at Miami airport on a stop-over from Havana to New York.
They told film producer Sandy Perez Aguila, who was travelling with the pair, that they would meet him at the departure gate for the New York flight, but failed to turn up.
Sandy Perez Aguila told Miami police the two had gone missing, but police said he would have to wait for 24 hours before he could file a report.
He said that when he opened their suitcases when he arrived in New York, he found them empty.
The film won three awards at the Tribeca film festival, including the prize for best actor for Javier Nunez Florian, which he shared with another of the film’s actors.
Speaking on America TeVe, Javier Nunez Florian said he hoped he would be able to further pursue his acting career in the US.
In an interview with Reuters news agency, the pair said they had started thinking about defecting when they heard about the invitation to New York.
“In part, it’s hard to leave your family and friends behind,” Anailin de la Rua said.
“But at the same time you do it so you can help them, there’s no future in Cuba,” she said.
A Miami immigration lawyer representing the two actors told Reuters he planned to file for political asylum on the actors’ behalf “based on possible persecution if they return to Cuba”.
A string of Cuban artists and athletes has defected from Cuba over the past few years.
In 2005, Cuban ballet dancer Rolando Sarabia crossed the border into the US. In 2008 seven members of Cuba’s Olympic football team defected in Florida after a game with the US.
Last year, five members of the National Ballet of Cuba on tour in Canada decided to remain there after their performances.