Health-challenged Assange hopes to escape UK confinement soon
19 August 2014
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Monday that he is planning to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London ''soon'', potentially bringing to an end over two years of asylum in the embassy.
However, his departure hinges on the UK authorities giving him safe passage to Ecuador – so far, they have personnel posted outside the embassy to nab Assange the minute he tries to leave his highly-confined sanctuary.
Speaking at a press conference inside the Mayfair embassy, Assange, 43, said the ordeal has caused him heart and lung problems and £7 million in legal costs.
The embassy ''has no outside areas, no sunlight,'' Assange told reporters in the briefing broadcast live on the internet. ''It's an environment in which any healthy person would find themselves soon enough with certain difficulties they would have to manage.''
Assange sought refuge with Ecuador in June 2012, after exhausting options in UK courts to avoid extradition to face questioning on allegations of rape and sexual molestation during a 2010 visit to Sweden.
The Australian national says he's innocent and hasn't been charged with a crime, and has refused to return to Sweden, citing risks that he will be extradited to the US over the release of secret documents by WikiLeaks.
Assange is accused in Sweden of failing to use a condom with one woman, and of having sex with another while she was asleep. The women, both supporters of WikiLeaks, let him stay at their homes during a speaking tour in 2010.
The charges would be thrown out by any Indian court, as both women were willing partners. But Swedish laws are different, as are those of the US.
''He is ready to leave the embassy at any moment,'' Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesman, told reporters outside the embassy.
Assange is waiting for UK authorities to ''give him safe passage'' out of the embassy within the next ''days, weeks,'' Hrafnsson he said. ''It's about time this situation comes to an end.''
Ecuador is a probable destination, he added.
Recent changes to UK extradition law might help him leave the country, Assange said. Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, speaking alongside Assange, said his government is seeking a meeting with UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond to discuss Assange's status.
WikiLeaks, which started in 2006, leaks classified documents under a philosophy of increasing transparency in government. The group drew the ire of US authorities for posting thousands of documents on its website, including US communications about foreign governments and military efforts during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One US soldier, Private Bradley Manning, is serving as long as 35 years in prison for providing the group with classified information.