LONDON: British police served an extradition notice Thursday on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has taken refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London requesting asylum.
Scotland Yard said they had served a “surrender notice” on the 40-year-old Australian requiring him to attend a police station, adding that failure to do so would make him further liable to arrest.
Assange faces extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations, having exhausted his options under British law when the Supreme Court overturned his appeal against extradition earlier this month.
Fearing Stockholm would pass him on to the United States, he sought refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London on June 19, asking the South American country for political asylum.
Scotland Yard has “served a surrender notice upon a 40-year-old man that requires him to attend a police station at date and time of our choosing,” a spokesman said. “This is standard practice in extradition cases and is the first step in the removal process.
“He remains in breach of his bail conditions. Failing to surrender would be a further breach of conditions and he is liable to arrest.”It is understood that officers from Scotland Yard's extradition unit delivered a note to the embassy saying Assange has to present himself to a nearby police station at 11:30am (1030 GMT) Friday, the domestic Press Association news agency said.
Citing sources, PA said a letter was also delivered for Assange. The embassy declined to comment on the serving of the police notice.
Assange fears that from Sweden he will be extradited to the United States to face possible espionage charges, after releasing more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website.
He faces allegations in Sweden of sexual assault and rape against two former female volunteers at his WikiLeaks website and was arrested on an extradition warrant in December 2010.
Following a lengthy series of legal challenges that ran out earlier this month, he was given until June 28 to make a final appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), at which point extradition procedures in Britain could commence.
His lawyer was unavailable for comment on Thursday, while a spokesman for WikiLeaks told AFP he had talked to Assange on Wednesday, but declined to comment on whether an appeal to the ECHR had been made.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa met Monday with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino and Ana Alban, his envoy to London, to discuss Assange's request.
“The request for political asylum is being examined along with all the political implications it will have, including for Mr Assange,” said Patino, adding that no timeframe had been set for a decision.
Correa said Tuesday that he would “analyse the judicial process in Sweden”before making any decision, adding that “these things take time”.
Assange is already in breach of his bail conditions, which state he must be at a given address between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am.
But while he remains in the embassy he is protected by diplomatic immunity and beyond the reach of British authorities.
The Ecuadorian embassy is a flat in a mansion block in the plush Knightsbridge district. It is across the street from the well-known Harrods department store.
The Ecuadorian embassies in the United States and Britain said Tuesday they had received more than 10,000 email messages in support of Assange's bid for political asylum.
A string of high-profile figures also signed a letter backing his asylum request, sent to Correa by Just Foreign Policy, a US civil liberties advocacy group.
Among the signatories were film directors Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, actor Danny Glover and philosopher Noam Chomsky, who denounced what they believe to be an attack on freedom of the press.