Julian Assange ‘to leave’ Ecuador embassy

Julian Assange has said he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London “soon” after more than two years holed up inside the building.

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

The Australian was speaking at a news conference alongside Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino at the building in Knightsbridge.

Widespread reports had suggested the WikiLeaks website founder needs hospital treatment for heart and lung problems.

But the 43-year-old denied he was leaving the embassy for health reasons.

He said: “I am leaving the embassy soon – but perhaps not for the reasons the Murdoch press and Sky News are saying at the moment.

“Being detained in various ways in this country without charge for four years and in this embassy for two years which has no outside area, therefore no sunlight … it is an environment in which any healthy person would find themselves soon enough with certain difficulties.”

Mr Assange insisted Ecuador’s decision to grant him political asylum “is the correct one”.

He said: “How can it be that such a situation in Europe arises where a person is held and their freedom of movement restricted and they are kept from their family while a foreign government, the US, builds an ever larger case against that person and their organisation?

“Somehow the situation has developed here for me, but also some others, where basic rights that were previously universally accepted in Europe are no longer respected.”

He added that there had been “significant mis-reporting” surrounding his case.

“First of all – I have not been charged with an offence here in the UK or in Sweden at any time,” he said.

“Secondly, the basis under which my asylum was granted here is the ongoing US investigation into me and WikiLeaks.

“It is often falsely reported that women in Sweden have accused me of the serious crime of rape. That is false.

“This is the situation which is being seized upon, at the time of the conflict between me and the US, the Swedish government resurrected a matter that had been previously dropped.”

Mr Patino said: “There has been two years of great uncertainty and a lack of legal protection. This situation must come to an end. Two years is simply too long.

“It is time to free Julian Assange. It is time for his human rights to finally be respected.”

He added that he would seek to meet with the British Foreign Secretary in the next few weeks to discuss resolving the situation.

Mr Assange requested political asylum from Ecuador in June 2012 and has been under continued surveillance with police stationed outside the embassy since.

He faces an arrest warrant in Sweden over allegations he sexually assaulted two women and would be arrested if he left the embassy building.

Mr Assange has been investigated by US authorities since WikiLeaks published leaked military and diplomatic documents in 2010 and has said he fears being extradited to the US to face questioning if he goes to Sweden. Sky News

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