Assange departure from Eduador embassy in doubt

Wikileaks founder insists he will not surrender to police on sexual assault charges

Julian Assange during a news conference yesterday at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London. Photograph: John Stillwell/Reuters

Julian Assange during a news conference yesterday at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London. Photograph: John Stillwell/Reuters

Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 01:00

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s claims yesterday he will leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he has been for two years have been cast into doubt. The Australian spoke, alongside the Ecuadorean foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, to specially selected reporters yesterday at the embassy – including some from Russia’s RT TV.

However, Mr Assange’s claims of an imminent departure make little sense since he is not prepared to surrender to police to face deportation to Sweden where he is wanted for trial on sexual assault charges.

“From the Swedish Prosecution Authority’s point of view, the Assange matter continues like before,” a spokesman for the Stockholm-based prosecutor told The Irish Times yesterday. “If Julian Assange decides to leave the Ecuadorian embassy, the British police will arrest him in accordance with the European Arrest Warrant which is issued.”

The Stockholm District Court reviewed Mr Assange’s case on July 16th, saying that he remained suspected “on probable cause” for rape, less serious crime, unlawful coercion and two cases of sexual molestation. Mr Assange says he fears he will be extradited to the US – where he faces prosecution for publishing hundreds of thousands of US secret documents – if he is sent to Sweden.

He fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in July 2012 after the High Court in London ordered his extradition. He was granted asylum by Ecuador a month later. He will be offered continuing “protection”, said Mr Patino.

Demanding talks with the British Foreign Office, the Ecuadorean foreign minister said: “The situation must come to an end. Two years is simply too long. It’s time to free Julian Assange.”

Since he sought asylum at the embassy in Knightsbridge, the Metropolitan Police has spent £7 million keeping officers on guard to ensure that Mr Assange does not flee.

Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said the 43-year-old Australian would be “leaving the embassy” once the British authorities “calls off the siege”.

Last weekend, Mr Assange claimed he has begun to suffer from heart difficulties because he has been confined in the building without sunlight for two years.