Ecuador to decide on WikiLeaks' Assange asylum Thursday
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa drinks water as he attends a meeting about the Yasuni-ITT Initiative at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, June 20, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London, is seeking political asylum in the South American nation. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)
Published Thursday, June 21, 2012 6:40AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 21, 2012 8:14AM EDT
LONDON - Ecuador says it expects to decide Thursday on an asylum request by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The country's deputy foreign minister, Marco Albuja, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that President Rafael Correa would make a decision within the day.
"The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow," Albuja said late Wednesday.
Staff at Ecuador's London embassy confirmed a decision was expected from Quito on Thursday.
Assange has spent a second night in the embassy, where he sought asylum on Tuesday. He has been fighting since 2010 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual assaults on two women. He denies the claims, and says the case against him is politically motivated.
His supporters say he fears charges in the United States for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents.
British officials say Assange is beyond their reach in the embassy, but say he will be arrested if he leaves for breaching his bail conditions.
The left-leaning Correa, who has sought to reduce U.S. influence in Latin America, has praised WikiLeaks for exposing U.S. secrets, and has offered Assange words of support.
Correa said Wednesday that Assange had made it clear in his letter requesting asylum that "he wants to continue his mission of free expression without limits, to reveal the truth, in a place of peace dedicated to truth and justice."
Some have questioned Ecuador's commitment to freedom of speech. Correa's government has been assailed by human rights and press freedom activists for using Ecuador's criminal libel law in sympathetic courts against journalists, including from the country's biggest newspaper, El Universo.