World Bulletin/News Desk
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepared to weigh into a standoff between Britain and Ecuador over his fate on Sunday by speaking from a balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy where he holed up to avoid arrest by police deployed outside the building.
Ecuador has granted political asylum to the former computer hacker who incensed the United States and its allies by using his WikiLeaks website to leak hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010.
WikiLeaks had said that Assange would make a statement outside the embassy, stirring speculation that he would be arrested by British police arrayed in force outside the red-brick legation in the opulent Knightsbridge district of London.
But a workman inside the embassy could be seen on Sunday morning prising the hinges off a door leading to a small balcony on the corner of the embassy, signalling that Assange would speak from that perch to keep himself safe from arrest.
"I cannot go into details of that for security reasons," a spokesman for WikiLeaks said when asked how Assange would make his statement, which was expected at around 3 p.m. (1400 GMT).
Assange, an Australian, is wanted in Sweden for questioning regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault and Britain has said he will not be granted safe passage out of his Ecuadorean embassy refuge, which enjoys diplomatic status.
Assange, 41, took sanctuary in the embassy in June after exhausting appeals in British courts against extradition to Sweden. He says he fears Sweden would eventually hand him over to the United States where, in his view, he would face persecution and long-term imprisonment.
A police helicopter circled overhead while about 40 British police officers in black stab vests were stationed outside the embassy on Sunday morning, lining walls under the balcony where Assange was expected to speak.
The exterior door was earlier removed from the balcony above which the yellow, blue and red Ecuadorean flag was draped in what appeared to be preparations for Assange's appearance.
The balcony was likely to be deemed part of the Ecuadorean embassy, thus insulating him from arrest by British police.
More than 50 of Assange supporters, many of whom have slept on sheets of cardboard outside the building since Wednesday, have decorated barriers with messages of support for Assange and placards reading "asylum - end the witch hunt".
"They are not treating him fairly," said Chantal, 28, a French pro-WikiLeaks blogger who had travelled overnight with a friend from near Paris in the hope of seeing Assange speak.
"Great Britain has shown it doesn't respect human rights - political asylum is a right which should be respected by all countries," she said. She refused to give her surname.
There was also a large crowd of curious passersby and bemused shoppers with bags from the nearby ritzy Harrods store watching the proceedings from across the street.
Baltasar Garzon, a Spanish jurist and prominent human rights investigator who heads Assange's legal team, was also expected to speak in a separate address outside the building ahead of Assange's appearance.
Assange's attempt to avoid extradition has touched off a diplomatic tussle between Britain and Ecuador, which accused London of threatening to raid its embassy and casting the dispute as an arrogant European power treating a Latin American nation like a colony.
Britain says the dispute is about its legal obligations and that Assange should be extradited to Sweden. But Assange says he fears he will be eventually sent to the United States though Washington has so far kept its distance from the dispute.
"The United States views this as a matter to be resolved between the British government, the Ecuadorean government and the Swedish government," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said to reporters travelling with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"At this point, we have not intervened in this matter and I don't have any guidance for you right now on whether or not that's something we would intervene in," Earnest said.
Riek Machar, speaking exclusively to Anadolu Agency, says rebels still willing to talk to S. Sudanese leader Salva Kiir
OAS demands national dialogue between Venezuelan government, opposition
1,500 people have been pardoned, linked to upcoming celebrations on October 27 and 28 of 25 years since the Central Asian country left the Soviet Union.
Libya forces free 13 foreigners from ISIL in Sirte
Ex-aviation minister in Goodluck Jonathan administration seized outside court
Canada's trade minister said on Saturday it was up to the EU to save a free trade deal that is being blocked by opposition from Belgium's French-speaking region
ISIS has executed 284 men and boys as coalition forces closed in on Mosul with those rounded up earlier being used as human shields
Serbia's top diplomat has complained that the European Union is putting "unacceptable" pressure on the country to impose sanctions against Russia.
Tajikistan began joint antiterror drills with China on October 20 near the border with Afghanistan as part of Beijing's drive to boost security in the region
Opposition party to decide Sunday whether to form government with conservative rivals or trigger yet more elections
Greece’s return of 10 Syrian refugees to Turkey, reportedly without considering their asylum claims, is a dangerous move that shows a callous disregard for their safety, Amnesty International said.
As the Mosul operation enters its sixth day, more than 30 villages have been retaken from ISIL control
Federal forces detain fugitive former police chief of Iguala, the southern city where 43 students disappeared in 2014.
Opposition leaders have accused President Nicolas Maduro's government on Friday of crossing a line into dictatorship
Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters were evacuated last night after a “suspicious” envelope was opened by interns.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter arrived in Iraq Saturday to assess the progress of the Mosul operation