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UK police demand Assange leave Ecuador embassy

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives for a hearing at the Supreme Court in London on February 2.Miguel Medina / AFP - Getty Images

LONDON - British police summoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to a London police station on Thursday as part of his extradition process, demanding he leave Ecuador's embassy where he has been holed up seeking political asylum.

Assange, 40, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sex crime allegations and took refuge in Ecuador's London embassy in a surprise move last week.

He now risks being arrested the moment he steps outside the red-brick building after breaching bail terms, keeping both his supporters and police puzzled as to what he might do next.

On Thursday, police said it had formally "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."

WikiLeaks' Assange says Ecuador 'quite supportive'

It added: "He remains in breach of his bail conditions, failing to surrender would be a further breach of conditions and he is liable to arrest."

The statement, in line with UK police policy, did not name him but local media quoted sources identifying him as Assange.

The BBC reported the extradition unit delivered a note to both Assange and the Ecuador embassy. The embassy declined to comment. Other media reported that he was due to present himself to a police station on Friday.

Assange enraged Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

He denies any wrongdoing in Sweden and says he fears that if extradited there he could be sent on to the United States, where he could face criminal charges punishable by death.

Assange, known for his unpredictable behavior, caused a media storm in Britain with his asylum bid. Ecuador's ambassador has in the meantime flown home to discuss whether to grant him asylum but the decision has yet to be made.

By diplomatic convention, police cannot enter the embassy without authorization from Ecuador. But even if Quito granted him asylum, he has no way of travelling to Ecuador without passing through London and exposing himself to arrest.

WikiLeaks' Assange seeks asylum in Ecuador  

On Tuesday, a group of celebrities and activists published an open letter to Ecuador published in The Guardian newspaper asking that Assange be given asylum in that country because he faced the death penalty if eventually sent to the United States. 

"We believe Mr Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden, as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States," reads the letter signed by the leaker of the Pentagon Papers Daniel Ellsberg, film-maker Michael Moore, actor and director Danny Glover, director Oliver Stone, comedian Bill Maher and author Naomi Wolf, among others.

Reuters contributed to this report. 


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