Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters on Tuesday that Assange had arrived at the South American nation’s embassy in London and formally requested asylum.
“Ecuador is studying and analyzing the request,” Patino said, adding that any decision would be made with “respect for norms and principles of international law.”
It was not immediately clear how Assange had arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010.
Ecuador’s embassy in London also released a statement on its website saying Assange’s application for asylum was passed on to the relevant department in Quito.
“While the department assesses Mr. Assange’s application, Mr. Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government,” the statement added.
In 2010, the Andean nation reportedly invited Assange to seek residency in the country, but President Rafael Correa subsequently dismissed the idea, saying Assange had broken US laws.
Assange faces extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes. On June 14, Britain’s Supreme Court rejected Assange’s request for his appeal against the extradition to be reopened.
Assange has maintained his innocence and claims the allegations against him are politically motivated. He says that if he is extradited to Sweden, the authorities there could hand him over to the United States, where he then could be prosecuted for his role in the leaking of classified documents.
The 40-year-old Australian gained international prominence in 2010 when WikiLeaks began publishing thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables, which embarrassed the government. The website has also published hundreds of thousands of classified US documents relating to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.