Assange embassy gamble follows famous precedents

Story highlights

  • Julian Assange is seeking to avoid extradition by claiming asylum at an embassy
  • Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng spent six days at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing
  • A Catholic cardinal lived in an embassy in Hungary for 15 years
  • Manuel Noriega sought refuge in the Vatican embassy in Panama in 1989

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is trying to avoid extradition from Britain to Sweden over allegations of rape and other sex crimes by seeking asylum at the embassy of Ecuador in London. Assange's move is dramatic, but he's not the first person to seek an escape route through a diplomatic mission. Here are some key precedents.

Chen Guangcheng. U.S. Embassy in Beijing, 2012. The self-taught lawyer and activist escaped house arrest one night in April and fled to the U.S. Embassy, where he spent six days before leaving for medical treatment. Chen later flew out of China with his family for a fellowship at New York University.

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Jozsef Mindszenty. U.S. Embassy in Hungary, 1956-1971. Vocally anti-Communist Hungarian Catholic Cardinal Mindszenty lived in the U.S. Embassy in Budapest for 15 years after the Soviet-led invasion of his country. He finally agreed to go into exile and died in Austria in 1975.

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Svetlana Alliluyeva. U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, 1967. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter got permission to bring her lover's ashes to India, then defected by walking into the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and burning her passport. She lived in the United States as Lana Peters until her death last November.

Assange granted asylum in Ecuador
Assange granted asylum in Ecuador

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Chen Guangcheng's life in New York
Chen Guangcheng's life in New York

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    Chen Guangcheng's life in New York

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Manuel Noriega. Vatican Embassy in Panama City, 1989. U.S. forces invaded Panama to topple and arrest Noriega, prompting the dictator to seek refuge in the Holy See's mission. American troops set up large speakers around the compound, blaring music at all hours, a psychological ploy to rattle the general. He surrendered after 10 days and was taken to the United States for trial. He was found guilty of drug trafficking and other crimes.

Wang Lijun. U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, China, 2012. One of China's best-known police chiefs sought refuge at a U.S. consulate amid a mystery over the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, a family friend of Wang's boss, top Communist party official Bo Xilai. The case was reopened after Wang's intervention, which appeared to implicate Bo -- but Wang was taken into Chinese custody when he left the diplomatic mission and has not been seen since.

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