- NEW: Julian Assange tells his legal team to take action, lawyer Baltasar Garzon says
- The founder of WikiLeaks hasn’t been seen since June, or spoken in public since March
- Ecuador’s president says Britain threatened to raid the embassy to arrest Assange
- Assange seeks to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questions about alleged rape
London (CNN) — A lawyer for Julian Assange called Sunday for the WikiLeaks founder to be given safe passage to Ecuador from Britain, where he is holed up in the South American country’s embassy.
“Mr. Assange is going to continue fighting for his rights,” human rights lawyer Baltasar Garzon declared Sunday, saying that Assange had instructed his legal team to take action.
Garzon, an attorney from Spain who is best known from his years as a crusading judge, did not say what that legal action would be.
Assange himself is expected to break months of silence Sunday from the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain, where he fled to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about alleged sex crimes.
Sunday marks two months since Assange fled to the embassy. Monday marks two years since Swedish prosecutors first issued a warrant for his arrest, alleging that he raped one woman and sexually molested another.
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Assange has been effectively confined for the past two months to the diplomatic mission — a suite of rooms covering half of one floor of a townhouse in a posh London neighborhood south of Hyde Park.
About 40 London police officers stood guard Sunday outside the embassy, while about a dozen Assange supporters turned out. Both groups were outnumbered by the media and by curious shoppers from the upscale stores in the area.
Ecuador raised the stakes in its diplomatic row with the United Kingdom on Thursday, officially offering Assange asylum in the South American country — but the British say they will not give him safe passage out of the embassy.
The Foreign Office says Britain has a legal obligation to hand him over to Sweden, after Assange’s legal efforts to avoid extradition were rejected by British courts up to the Supreme Court.
Garzon said that Assange was willing to answer Swedish prosecutors’ questions, but only if he is given certain guarantees.
Assange, an Australian, and his supporters claim a U.S. grand jury has been empaneled to consider charges against him.
Assange claims to fear Sweden will transfer him in turn to the United States, where he could face the death penalty for the work of WikiLeaks.
Sweden angrily rejected the allegation on Thursday.
“Sweden does not extradite individuals who risk facing the death penalty,” the Foreign Ministry said after Ecuador granted Assange asylum.
Assange says the charges in Sweden are politically motivated and tied to the work of his website, which facilitates the publication of secret documents. He has published hundreds of thousands of pages of American government diplomatic cables and assessments of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
His expected appearance comes as foreign ministers from various South American countries gather in Ecuador to discuss his fate.
The dispute between Britain and Ecuador exploded when the British Foreign Office, in a letter to Ecuadorian officials, cited a little known law that could temporarily suspend the embassy’s diplomatic protection and allow authorities to enter and arrest Assange.
President Rafael Correa on Saturday slammed Britain’s behavior toward Ecuador, describing it as “intolerable” and “unacceptable.”
“Who do they think they’re dealing with?” Correa asked rhetorically during his weekly address. “They don’t realize Latin America is free and sovereign. We won’t tolerate interference, colonialism of any kind.”
The president said Ecuador had sought, but did not receive, guarantees that Assange would not be extradited to a third country.
Correa is seeking support on the issue from foreign ministers of the the Union of South American Nations and the leftist Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), who are gathered in Guayaquil, Ecuador, this weekend.
ALBA, whose membership includes Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, warned Britain on Saturday against raiding the embassy.
“We warn the government of the United Kingdom that it will face grave consequences around the world if it directly breaches the territorial integrity of the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in London,” according to a statement read by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro on behalf of ALBA
Assange was arrested in Britain in 2010 because Swedish authorities wanted to question him about the allegations. Two women accused him of sexually assaulting them during an August 2010 visit to Sweden in connection with a WikiLeaks release of internal U.S. military documents.
Assange denies the allegations and argues they are in retribution for his organization’s disclosure of American secrets.
CNN’s Marilia Brocchetto, Norman Powell, Chelsea J. Carter and Per Nyberg contributed to this report.