Sweden has taken a small step to try to resolve a diplomatic standoff over the founder of the world's most prominent whistle-blowing website. There is no indication what the effect will be.
Sweden has pledged not to extradite Julian Assange to the United States if it means that he would face the death penalty.
"If there is the risk that a person could (face) the death penalty in a given country, he can not be extradited," a spokesman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry told the German news agency DPA. "This would breach Swedish law and the European Human Rights Convention," the spokesman said.
Assange has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London since mid-June, when he entered the diplomatic compound in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he is accused of sexual harassment and rape.
Ecuador granted Assange asylum at its embassy, but he would likely face immediate arrest by British police if he were to leave the compound. The British government has also raised the possibility of revoking the embassy's diplomatic immunity to allow police to enter the building and arrest him.
'Witch hunt' claim
The Wikileaks founder says he fears that if he is sent to Sweden, it could in turn extradite him to the United States, where officials were angered when his website published thousands of secret US diplomatic cables, including some regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While US officials have launched an investigation into Wikileaks, they have denied the Australian-born Assange's claim that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”
Also on Tuesday, the computer-hacking group Anonymous claimed to have launched attacks on British government websites to express their solidarity with Assange. Among the sites affected were those of the prime minister's office and the Justice Ministry.
pfd/mkg (Reuters, dpa)