Assange says he’s ready to get out of the embassy… but he’s not handing himself in and the UK is still trying to extradite him
Julian Assange has said he plans to leave the embassy of Ecuador in London “soon,” speaking at a press conference hosted by the country’s Foreign Minister Ricarod Patino on Monday morning. He gave not date, however, and denied he plans to surrender to the aurhorities.
The founder of WikiLeaks left the media guessing again. Some reports had said he is tired of living in a self-imposed exile and ready to hand himself in, but a spokesman for the website reportedly clarified that Assange will only leave the embassy when the UK grants him safe passage.
The Australian publisher has spent more than two years at the embassy, fighting extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct towards two WikiLeaks volunteers.
Assange denies the allegations as politically motivated. However in June, a Swedish court rejected his latest appeal.
During the press conference Assange acknowledged that hist stay at the embassy has affected his health, but hinted that reports of his illness are exaggerated.
Assange, now aged 43, is a former hacker who came to prominence after establishing WikiLeaks, a website which deals with stolen secrets. In 2010, WikiLeaks published ‘Iraq war logs’ leaked by Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst who has been sentenced to 35 years for violating the US Espionage Act. The same year, the Swedish authorities became interested in Assange, and he was granted asylum in Ecuador.
The publisher can’t leave the embassy building since he would be arrested by the UK police and extradited to Sweden, where he is facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
These allegations were made more than three years ago but no official charges have been filed, leading the Assange camp to believe that they are a part of a political ploy, and Sweden would be just a short stop on the way to the US, where the Federal Grand Jury is currently preparing a criminal case against WikiLeaks.
So far, no official charges have been filed in the UK either, and Assange again denied the allegations during the press conference. He added that two years in confinement wouldn’t be good for anyone’s health, but denied reports that he is planning to leave the embassy for health reasons. It has been reported that the publisher is suffering heart and lung problems made worse by his voluntary incarceration.
Meanwhile, Patino told the press his government would continue working to secure safe passage for Assange, with further meetings scheduled with the UK Foreign Office.
“We continue to offer him our protection and we continue to be ready to talk to the British government and the Swedish government in order to try to find a solution to this serious breach of Julian Assange’s human rights,” said the Foreign Minister of Ecuador.
A spokesman for Wikileaks later told Reuters that Assange has no intention to surrender to the UK authorities.
During the press conference, the police force was standing by outside the embassy, ready to arrest Assange in the event he decided to hand himself in. The British government recently admitted it has spent more than £6 million on policing the quiet neighbourhood in Knightsbridge.
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