Julian Assange won’t leave Ecuadorian Embassy
Assange claimed there was a "sealed indictment already lodged at a grand jury in the US" which would lead to him being taken from Britain if he ever steps outside the embassy.
Assange, granted political asylum last year by the Ecuadorian Government, recently announced plans to stand in the Australian elections in September as a WikiLeaks candidate.
The Australian also denied rumors of his worsening health, stating that he "works 17 hours a day" and "exercises regularly."
Julian Assange says he’s prepared to stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for five years. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino says the embassy will continue to provide asylum to the Wikileaks founder, who sought refuge there a year ago. VoR's Vivienne Nunis reports.
For one year now, Julian Assange has remained inside the white painted rooms of Ecuador’s embassy in London.
It was meant to be a temporary shelter, a way of avoiding extradition to Sweden where he’s accused of sex crimes which he denies.
But the redbrick building in Knightsbridge has now become his home.
“It has become my home, my office and my refuge. Thanks to the principled stance of the Ecuadorian government and the support of its people, I am safe in this embassy to speak to you,” he said.
It appears the 41-year-old Australian will be staying put for now. In a meeting that lasted until 4am last night, Assange told the Ecuadorian foreign minister he would rather stay in the London embassy for another five years, than face legal proceedings in the United States.
Assange believes that once in Sweden, the authorities there will extradite him to the US to face charges over Wikileaks’ public release of thousands of confidential diplomatic cables in 2010.
But the Ecuadorian offer of asylum still stands.
Speaking through a translator, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Ecuador will continue to provide asylum to Assange in the London embassy.
“The Ecuadorian government maintains that the reasons for which Ecuador granted asylum are still relevant and therefore there is going to be no change in his circumstances.”
Mr. Patino said his government isn’t going to hand Assange to the UK or anyone else.
He also said the former computer hacker was in good spirits, despite his limited accommodation.
Assange told AP:“If you ask how I deal with the difficulties of being confined, well actually my mind is not confined”.
Mr. Patino made the comments after meeting with his British counterpart, William Hague this morning.
The Foreign Office said the meeting lasted 45 minutes and both ministers agreed that officials should establish a working group to find a diplomatic solution, but no real progress was made.
The Foreign Office said Mr. Hague was very clear: any resolution will need to be within the laws of the United Kingdom.
That means the British authorities will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy, so the extradition request from Sweden can be fulfilled.
Assange himself believes there is still hope for a diplomatic solution to be reached.
“The position here in the UK is softening but of course it will never publicly humiliate the United States by offering me safe passage in a manner that doesn’t seem to be forced.”
Support for the free-information campaigner remains strong.
Crowds gathered outside the Ecuadorian embassy cheered Assange and Mr. Patino as they waved from the window yesterday.
Mehdi Taïleb is the President of Liberté-info, a Paris-based organisation that campaigns for digital freedoms.
“Liberté -info itself was created after the release of the Cablegate documents and Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Logs. Actually, this was such an important event that the founders decided to create this Liberté –info organisation to defend the rights of the people to both share and get this kind of information because this is really at the core of democracy.”
Mr. Taïleb says Assange has never been charged and he’s invited Swedish investigators to come to London to interview him about the allegations he faces.
“He has several times through his lawyers asked that it is the Swedish authorities who interview him in London and this request has been refused every time. That is not normal so I’d say the ball is in the Swedish authority’s camp.”
It looks as though the impasse is set to continue and Assange will pass his one year anniversary in the embassy on Wednesday.
The precedent for long-term residency in foreign embassies has been set - a Hungarian Cardinal stayed in the US Embassy in Budapest for 19 years.
Voice of Russia, TASS