Ecuador is weighing the asylum request of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and will make the decision on its own, in its own time, the country's president said.
Assange has been holed up inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since applying for political asylum on June 19. He is seeking to avoid being sent to Sweden over claims of rape and sexual molestation and said he fears if he is extradited there, Swedish authorities could hand him over to the United States.
"Ecuador will make its own, independent decision," said President Rafael Correa, the state-run El Ciudadano website reported, citing an interview he gave to a local TV station. "The case is under review."
Correa noted that capital punishment exists in the United States for a "political crime," and that fact could be sufficient grounds to grant Assange asylum, El Ciudadano said.
The state-run website also said Correa stressed he is not afraid of international repercussions that might stem from whatever decision Ecuador makes.
"We have to see whether everything that's being done in the case of Julian Assange is compatible with ... the constitution and our view of human rights, political rights and due process," the president said.
Assange was arrested in Britain in 2010 because Swedish authorities wanted to question him about the sexual molestation and rape allegations, which he denies. His bail conditions included staying every night at the home of a supporter outside London.
UK police say Assange is in violation of his bail by staying at the embassy. After he entered it, they served him with notice to turn himself in -- an order he ignored, marking a further violation.
Diplomatic protocol prevents police from entering the embassy to arrest him.
Two women have accused Assange of sexually assaulting them in August 2010, when he was visiting Sweden in connection with a WikiLeaks release of internal U.S. military documents. He was arrested in Britain that December and has been fighting extradition since, saying the allegations are retribution for his organization's disclosure of American secrets.
Susan Benn of the Julian Assange defense fund has said the United States had empaneled a grand jury in its goal to press charges against Assange. Turning himself in to British authorities would start a process that would end with Assange being extradited to the United States, she said.
WikiLeaks, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, has published about 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables, causing embarrassment to the government and others. It also has published hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents relating to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange sought refuge at the embassy five days after the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom dismissed a bid to reopen his appeal of the decision to send him to Sweden, his last option in British courts.
British officials have met with Ecuadorian authorities, but no information has been released about those meetings.