Yesterday WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange suggested that he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London “soon”, after being holed up in exile for the last two years.
In the hastily called news conference, Assange declined to specify his reasons for leaving, although did state that it is “perhaps not for the reasons the Murdoch press are saying at the moment” (who declared that it was due to him needing medical treatment).
Assange, 43, has been embroiled in a high-profile international legal battle against his extradition to Sweden since WikiLeaks published secret diplomatic and military information online in 2010, which resulted in his arrest in Britain that same year. The classified government documents included the Guantanamo procedures manual, documents related to US activities in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as diplomatic cables from US embassies. In August 2010, Swedish prosecutors also issued an arrest warrant for him after he allegedly raped one woman and molested another during a trip to Stockholm in 2010. However, Assange hasn’t been charged and denies the accusations, announcing that “in fact, the women in Sweden explicitly deny having done that”.
None the less, Assange turned himself in to London authorities in 2012 where he was remanded in custody. After a judge ruled that he should be extradited to Sweden, Assange set up a string of appeals which were denied by the British Supreme Court. In order to avoid extradition, Assange fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in June where he was granted political asylum two months later and has been holed up ever since.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino notes that Swedish prosecutors have disregarded offers to collect their evidence against Assange from him via video conference or by sending their prosecutors to the embassy and thus the case is still unresolved two years later - an unfair resolution for both Assange himself and the two women.
Assange argues that the Swedish investigation is a politically motivated ploy which is backed by Washington, in order to ultimately get him sent to the US, although Sweden denies that its inquest has any links to the US, who are also yet to issue an extradition request for him.
Ricardo pleas that “the situation must come to an end… two years is too long” and that “it is time to free Julian Assange. It is time for his human rights to be respected”, but the BBC’s legal correspondent Clive Coleman states that nothing has changed since 2012 and that if Assange leaves the embassy, he will be arrested and extradited to Sweden.
Since seeking refuge in the embassy, London police have been waiting him out with a round-the-clock presence outside the building, which has so far cost £6.4 million. After yesterday’s revelations the police have been joined by packs of newspaper reporters and television crews, as well as a helicopter apparently hovering above.
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