Assange faces arrest for breaching bail conditions
Lisa Millar in London, staff
Ecuador's government has told the ABC that it will make a decision on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's asylum application within the next 24 hours.
Mr Assange is preparing to spend a second night inside Ecuador's London embassy, while British police wait outside to arrest for him for breaching his bail conditions.
Ecuador's deputy foreign minister Marco Albuja says a decision on Mr Assange's fate will be made soon.
"We still can't make a final decision public yet until tomorrow," he said.
"The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow."
Mr Assange went to the embassy in central London on Tuesday, saying he wanted to claim diplomatic immunity and political asylum.
But he now faces arrest for breaching the conditions of his bail, which stipulates that he must stay at his bail address between 10:00pm and 8:00am.
The 40-year-old Australian is fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual assault.
His supporters say the charges are politically motivated and say he believes he could be extradited to the US to face espionage charges if Swedish authorities get their hands on him.
The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow.Ecuador's deputy foreign minister Marco Albuja
Police say Mr Assange will be arrested even if he leaves the embassy in London in a diplomatic car.
"At around 22:20 Tuesday the Metropolitan Police Service was notified that Assange had breached one of those bail conditions," a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said.
"He is now subject to arrest under the Bail Act for breach of these conditions. Officers are aware of his location at the Ecuador embassy in Hans Crescent, London."
However, Britain's Foreign Office said that because Mr Assange was in an embassy he was on diplomatic territory and "beyond the reach of the police".
It said it was working to resolve the situation.
Mr Assange's move also raises the question of whether his friends and supporters will get back the $350,000 they donated so he could post bail.
'He'll probably be arrested'
There has been a small but constant police presence outside the embassy, where half a dozen Assange supporters joined the media throng on Wednesday.
Mr Assange's friend Gavin MacFadyen was an early visitor.
"It's a very fluid situation and as I say, he's in very good humour and the generosity of the embassy is impressive and moving," he told AM.
"I think he's very grateful for it."
Extradition lawyer Alex Carlile is convinced the stand-off will only end one way.
"I am sure that in due course he will be told to leave the embassy. He will then be arrested," he said.
"He will probably be refused bail because he has made this attempt to escape.
"He will then be extradited to Sweden because he has exhausted all his remedies here and the Swedish courts will then have to decide whether he is given bail or remains in custody in Sweden."
Mr Assange's backers may have been caught by surprise by his bid for asylum, but those who have spoken publicly have reiterated their support.
Author Phillip Knightley may lose more than $30,000 in bail if Mr Assange is rearrested, but says he understands why his friend chose to do it.
"He is a victim of a flawed judicial system in Britain and Sweden. He is the victim, I think, of persecution," he said.
"I think there was a hidden agenda through the whole of his arrest for sexual charges and I feel that he did the only possible thing to avoid a long term in a US jail."
Another friend, Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, says he chose Ecuador because of welcoming signs given by the country's leaders.
And she said the decision was not made in the heat of the moment and he had also received offers from Tunisia.
"This is not an act of desperation. This is a person who has sought to exercise his right to seek refugee status and seek political asylum," she said.
Barrister Helena Kennedy is an expert in human rights law who has advised the Assange team in the past.
She believes this is a bid to get guarantees from Sweden.
"I suspect that one would be asking the Swedish authorities to give an undertaking that they are required in international law, [to ensure that] a country to which a person has surrendered should only deal with him on the offences for which he has been surrendered, and that the moment it is finished, he should be allowed to exit that country," she said.
Ms Kennedy said she believed that if Sweden offered that promise, the Ecuadorians would let Mr Assange leave.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has dismissed the Assange camp's claims that he could face extradition to the US.
"There has been no hint of an American interest in doing this," he said.
"In theory it could not be ruled out, but it just strikes me as curious that if the Americans wanted to extradite him they would have every opportunity to extradite him from the United Kingdom, where he's been for some years.
"There's an extradition treaty, I understand, between the United States and the United Kingdom. And indeed there's some legal advice that it would be easier for America to do it with the United Kingdom than with the government of Sweden."