Assange wants assurance from UK

Written By Unknown on Senin, 18 Agustus 2014 | 20.01

After being confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy for over two years, Julian Assange will now consider leaving the embassy and may surrender to British Police. Courtesy: Sky News

On the balcony ... Wikileaks founder Julian Assange looks on at the media and his supporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange is ready to leave the Ecuadorian embassy bolthole where he has been in political exile for more than two years.

However, a spokesman for Assange sought to clarify his boss' position saying that when he said he was leaving "soon" that did not mean a surrender but rather hoped law changes would be more conducive to a political solution.

"The plan (as always) is to leave as soon as the UK government decides to honour its obligations in relation to international agreements," he said.

Earlier this year the law was changed to bar extradition if there's no prosecution decision in the requesting territory. So far Sweden has not made a prosecution decision but rather upheld an arrest warrant.

It was yet another oblique lengthy press conference from Assange who uses certain press to push the Wikileaks agenda but avoid any real questioning; yesterday he refused to answer or clarify his move to leave.

Mr Patino added EU law reforms had made a "better climate" for an agreement and he hoped to set up a meeting with his British foreign counterpart Philip Hammond soon.

Assange made the announcement during a press conference at the embassy, but did not say exactly when he would go.

He declined to elaborate on that answer or detail how and when he would be leaving the embassy but a European-wide warrant for his arrest still exists and police are waiting for him outside.

Media reports had suggested the 43-year-old Australian, who has been holed up at the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, needs hospital treatment for heart and lung problems.

Assange has said he fears that if he goes to Sweden he will be extradited on to the United States to face charges for publishing classified material.

He told the media conference: "I can confirm I am leaving the embassy soon."

Assange confirmed tonight he had developed "certain difficulties" since he had been in asylum but did not directly respond to reporters questions about his reported ill health.

After two years of being detained inside ... Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Picture: Supplied Source: Supplied

Back in 2012 ... Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

Assange, sitting with Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, told a hastily organised press conference inside the embassy, attended by hand- selected members of the media, he had been pursued by authorities not just for two years of asylum but two years prior.

He said his freedoms had been restricted for too long and he had been kept from his family contrary to human rights. In the time he had been in the embassy both his stepfather and grandfather have died.

He said his health had suffered.

"As you can imagine being detained in various ways in this country without charge for four years and now in this embassy for two years with no outside area and no sunlight as a result of the obstruction that is presently in place by the UK … any healthy person would find themselves soon enough with certain difficulties they would have to manage," he said.

He would not detail his illnesses but an embassy official said he was dispirited and health complaints included a heart condition, lung complaint, poor eyesight and high blood pressure.

Instead, he said his imminent departure was for other reasons — without saying what they were.

Assange also gave no indications about what arrangements had been made for him to leave the embassy.

He said throughout the time has been there he has only had an hours exercise a day within a very confined space.

It had been almost four years since his ordeal began and two years since he sought political asylum.

Fighting for justice .... Julian Assange inside the Equadorian embassy in London last year. Picture: Ella Pellegrini Source: News Limited

But throughout all that time he had not been charged, he said, and asked how it could be possible that a person like himself could be held while the US Government built its case against him.

" I have not been charged with an offence here in the UK or in Sweden at any time."

"The basis under which asylum was granted is the ongoing investigation into me and Wikileaks. That investigation, led by the US Department of Justice, ... Has now been going more than four years."

Assange said there had been "significant" misreporting of his case.

The media attending his press conference were selected and vetted by Assange and included Russian and Ecuadorean press but excluded mainstream media including the British BBC and Sky.

Mr Patino said the British Government would only look at the legal side of the argument not the political one and regrettably negotiations to release Assange on political grounds had failed.

He said two years was simply too long.

Secre and safe ... the Embassy of Ecuador in London where WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange took refuge and is seeking political asylum. Picture: AP Source: News Limited

"These two lost years for everyone, two years of great uncertainty and lack of legal protection … it is time to free Julian Assange, it's time for his human rights to be respected," he said.

Assange sought and was granted asylum in 2012 after being pursued by Swedish authorities for questioning over two alleged sexual assault allegations. The activist has denied the claims, yesterday maintained neither women had directly accused him of rape or assault and accused the Swedes of acting in concert with US authorities who want to prosecute him for the tens of thousands of confidential military and diplomatic files he publicly released through Wikileaks.

He claimed political asylum at the embassy and had hoped to travel to Ecuador but instead became trapped inside the small building at the rear of the loading dock to Harrods department store in up-market Knightsbridge in London's south west.

He has remained in the confines of the embassy with British Police setting up a 24hr permanent watch about his premises with a British court order for his immediate arrest if on the street still in effect. The cost of guarding the fugitive has cost taxpayers more than AUD$12.5 million.

He has since become something of a cause célèbre with a host of celebrity visitors including entertainers Lady Gaga, Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and actors John Cusack, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard.

From the embassy he has broadcast numerous televised messages to his worldwide supporters and continued to lead the Wikileaks group.

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