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Ecuador grants asylum to WikiLeaks' Julian Assange

By Raphael Satter And Gonzalo Solano

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Aug. 16 2012 8:52 p.m. MDT

"This could go on for quite a considerable time as things stand," he told reporters. "There is no time limit for resolving this."

Possible escape routes

It's an impasse: Ecuador Thursday granted asylum to Julian Assange, but Britain says it still intends to arrest the WikiLeaks chief the moment he steps out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and extradite him to Sweden for questioning about alleged sexual assaults.

Is there any way out for Assange? Any way he could elude British officials and make it to Ecuador?

DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY

Some supporters want Assange to be granted Ecuadorean citizenship and made a member of the embassy staff, so that he would be protected by diplomatic immunity. But diplomatic status must be recognized by the host government, something the British government is exceedingly unlikely to do.

Legal expert Carl Gardner has raised another long-shot possibility — Ecuador could name Assange its representative to the United Nations. That would make him immune from arrest while traveling to U.N. meetings around the world. Assange could be stripped of his role as representative by the U.N. General Assembly, but in the meantime would be protected.

MAKE A RUN FOR IT

London police have been stationed outside the embassy building since Assange holed up there in June. He could try to sneak past them in disguise, perhaps trying to lose pursuers in the aisles of the nearby Harrods department store. But he would be liable to arrest if identified.

Spiriting him to a private airfield or secluded port seems like an option, but legal experts say police will be vigilant for escape attempts.

SMUGGLE HIM OUT

What about smuggling Assange out of the embassy in a diplomatic pouch? As far-fetched as it sounds, it is not without precedent.

In 1964, a man named Joseph Dahan — who turned out to be Mordechai Louk, a Moroccan-born Israeli spying for Egypt — was abducted from a Rome cafe, drugged and placed in a trunk marked "diplomatic mail" addressed to the Egyptian foreign ministry. Italian authorities discovered the plot when an airport guard heard moaning coming from inside the trunk. The Times newspaper reported that Roman police said the specially adapted trunk was well worn and appeared to have been used for similar missions before.

— Associated Press

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