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Assange to leave embassy ‘soon’

- Wiki founder says his health is suffering after 2 years at the Ecuador mission

London, Aug. 18: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who was given asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy here two years ago, said today that he “will be leaving the embassy soon”, but he provided no specifics.

In a long and meandering news conference at which he was accompanied by the Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patiń, Assange summarised his case, insisting that he had helped bring about needed change in the British extradition system and saying that his health was suffering after two years at the embassy.

Assange faces extradition to Sweden, which is investigating allegations of sexual misconduct, and the British police continue to post a 24-hour guard at the embassy at a total cost thus far of at least $10 million. Assange says that he has not been charged with any crime and that he fears that if he leaves the embassy, he will be extradited to the US.

Investigations continue there into the disclosure of classified material to WikiLeaks, which posted material on its website and arranged for newspapers, including The New York Times, to publish some of it. The US has not sought Assange’s extradition, and there has been no public indictment of him.

The British news media, especially Sky News, had reported before the news conference that Assange would announce that he was leaving the embassy to seek medical treatment. Quoting a WikiLeaks source, news reports said that he was suffering from arrhythmia, very high blood pressure and a chronic lung condition.

Today, Assange said that he had decided to leave “soon, but perhaps not for the reasons that the Murdoch press are saying at the moment”. He did not elaborate.

Patiń said that Ecuador supported Assange and would continue to seek a negotiated legal end to the standoff. He described “two years of great uncertainty and lack of legal protection for everyone”, and added: “The situation must come to an end. Two years have been definitely too long. It is time to free Julian Assange. It is time for his human rights to be respected.”

Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for WikiLeaks, said that Assange would leave if Britain promised him safe passage but that he had no plans to turn himself in.

In June, Assange’s lawyers petitioned a Swedish court to repeal a 2010 order to have him detained in Sweden. Assange has not been formally indicted in Sweden, but he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct involving two women he met during a visit to Sweden in 2010.

 
 
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