LONDON (AA) – Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told a press conference at his London Ecuadorian embassy home Monday that he planned to leave the building “soon,” but would give no further indication as to exactly when that would be.
Assange has been holed up in the embassy since 2012, after Ecuador granted him asylum as he sought refuge in an attempt to evade extradition to Sweden where he faces questioning over sexual assault allegations.
A clearly tired and pale looking Assange appeared in a suit alongside Ricardo Patino, the Ecuadorian foreign minister, Monday to say “I am leaving the embassy soon – but perhaps not for the reasons the Murdoch press and Sky News are saying at the moment.”
Media had reported that he would vacate the embassy because of an alleged deteriorating health problem. The Australian has been unable to step outdoors since he first sought refuge for fear of arrest.
“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,” he said.
Assange, 43, fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, he may then be handed over to the United States where he will be prosecuted due to Wikileaks publishing documents the U.S. government considers “secret” that relate to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The Wikileaks website bills itself as an international, online, non-profit, journalistic organization which publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources. In 2010 it released U.S. state department diplomatic cables passed to the organization by U.S., soldier Chelsea Manning – then known as Bradley Manning.
Manning was convicted in the U.S. in 2013 for violations of the espionage act and received 35 years detention.
The Ecuadorian foreign minister told media Monday that “It is time to free Julian Assange, it is time for his human rights to be respected… We will continue to offer him protection”
Patino added that it was time for “the situation to come to an end.”
He said that Ecuador was prepared to speak to the Swedish and British authorities to bring a resolution to the current situation, adding that he would seek to meet the British foreign secretary in the next few weeks to discuss the issue.
During the press conference Assange complained that he had not been charged with any crime, and that his human rights were being breached.
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