WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange
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, reports Reuters.
Assange denies the accusations made by two female WikiLeaks supporters. He fears Sweden could send him on to the United States, where he believes authorities want to punish him for publishing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks in 2010 in a major embarrassment for Washington.
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.
"The question of asylum is arguably a red herring," said former British government lawyer, Carl Gardner.
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 can't see the UK backing down and just allowing him safe passage out of the country," said Rebecca Niblock, an extradition specialist at London law firm Kingsley Napley.
"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, apparently."