© Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Julian Assange has asked for asylum at Ecuador's embassy in London.
WikiLeaks founder walked into the embassy and asked for asylum under the United Nations human rights declaration

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has sought political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He walked into the embassy in Knightsbridge, London on Tuesday afternoon and asked for asylum under the United Nations human rights declaration.

A statement issued on behalf of the embassy said: "This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorian government.

"As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito.

"While the department assesses Mr Assange's application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government.

"The decision to consider Mr Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden."

Assange was on bail and living with friends before his extradition.

Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino also confirmed the Australian had taken refuge at its embassy and that the country's government was weighing up the request.

A message was posted on the Wikileaks Twitter account, saying: "ALERT: Julian Assange has requested political asylum and is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London."

A second read: "We will have more details on the Ecuadorian situation soon."

The dramatic move by Assange followed his long-running legal bid to halt his extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex crime allegations.

The UK Supreme Court decided on 30 May that extradition was lawful and could go ahead, but Assange was given time to consider the judgment.

The Swedish authorities want him to answer accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture.

Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.

Last week the supreme court reaffirmed its rejection of the 40-year-old's appeal against his extradition, turning down an 11th hour request to reopen the case.

In a brief statement, the court said the application was "without merit and it is dismissed."

The supreme court case revolved around the question of whether a prosecutor constituted a "judicial authority" as the European arrest warrant specifies.

The court found by a majority of five to two against Assange, saying that the warrant was valid.

In its statement declining to reopen the case, the court said it had agreed unanimously that extradition proceedings should not begin for another two weeks.

Assange's marathon legal battle has played out in the glare of worldwide publicity and his court appearances have previously attracted a range of celebrity supporters and members of the public who back him.