Julian Assange to sit out standoff over extradition at Ecuadorean embassy
Unable to leave the Ecuadorean embassy for fear of being arrested and deported, the WikiLeaks founder had a statement read out on his behalf by a supporter outside the building in Knightsbridge, central London.
Assange is wanted for questioning by the Swedish authorities in connection with accusations of sexual assault and rape in Stockholm in 2010. He fears that once there he would be extradited to the US in connection with his organisation’s publication of leaked US diplomatic cables.
Susan Benn, of the Julian Assange Defence Fund, said the 40-year-old was in “good spirits” and would remain in Ecuador’s embassy while evidence for his application for his political asylum was processed. He has been there for more than a week.
Assange, an Australian citizen, had been served with a letter from the Metropolitan police requesting that he surrender himself to Belgravia police station at 11.30am on Friday.
The statement read out by Benn said Assange had been advised that he should decline to comply with the police request, adding: “This should not be considered any sign of disrespect. Under both international and domestic UK law, asylum assessments take priority over extradition claims.
“The issues faced by Mr Assange are serious. His life and liberty and the life and liberty of his organisation and those associated with it are at stake.
“The US government has instigated a grand jury against Julian Assange and other founders or managers of WikiLeaks.
“There is irrefutable evidence in the public record of subpoenas being issued and witnesses being compelled to testify against Mr Assange.
US officials have said in open court that the FBI file about the investigation has now reached 42,135 pages.
“It is only a matter of time before US authorities begin extradition proceedings against Julian and other leading members of WikiLeaks on various charges including conspiracy to commit espionage.
“It is clear that there is a legal process in place which will result in taking Julian to the US, which if allowed to succeed would violate his basic rights.
“Although it is normal procedure, Swedish authorities have refused, without reason, to make the three hour trip to London and to interview Julian causing him to be trapped in the UK under virtual house arrest for 561 days and an additional 10 days in solitary confinement – all without charge. Instead they have issued an Interpol red notice and extradition requests.
“The Swedish executive publicly announced on 14 June that it would detain Mr Assange in prison without charge. Once in Sweden under such grave restrictions it would be impossible for Mr Assange to exercise his asylum rights.
“Mr Assange did not feel safe from US extradition in the UK. We are all too aware of the abuses of the US-UK extradition treaty. Although Mr Assange has been trapped in the UK, under dangerous circumstances, he at least has had the freedom to apply for political asylum.
“Julian will remain in the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorean government while evidence for his application is being assembled and processed.”
Assange maintains the sexual relations in Stockholm were consensual and that the allegations against him are politically motivated. He was on bail of £240,000. The UK supreme court upheld a ruling that his extradition to Sweden was legal.