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WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange still in Ecuador’s embassy after 2 years, intends to leave ‘soon’

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told reporters in London on Monday he plans to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy “soon.”

The whistleblower sought refuge there two years ago when the UK Supreme Court dismissed his efforts to block extradition to Sweden where he’s wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual assault involving two women.

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Assange, who has always protested his innocence, believes any extradition to Sweden will ultimately lead to extradition to the US where he could face charges related to the publication of classified government documents in recent years. The 43-year-old Australian thinks if that happens, he has little chance of getting a fair hearing, although his opponents would argue otherwise.

Despite being granted asylum by the Ecuadorean government, the UK authorities have always insisted that Assange will be arrested and extradited should he step outside the embassy, a stance that has resulted in a round-the-clock police presence at the site that has so far cost taxpayers an estimated £6.5 million ($10.8 million).

Deteriorating health

Assange said during Monday’s press conference that as a result of his self-imposed confinement, his health was suffering – heart and lung problems, as well as high blood pressure, have been reported by many news outlets in recent days. The WikiLeaks founder declined to elaborate, adding only that he was in an “environment in which any healthy person would find themselves soon enough with certain difficulties.”

Ricardo Patiño, Ecuador’s foreign minister, sat alongside Assange during the press gathering, and insisted 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.”

Related: Spies monitored visits to WikiLeaks website

The UK Foreign Office said it’s still looking for a diplomatic solution to the ongoing case, saying that it was also keen to bring the “difficult and costly situation to an end.”

However, it added, “We are clear that our laws must be followed and Mr. Assange should be extradited to Sweden.”

With that statement, it’s hard to see how he can leave “soon” without being cuffed and extradited to the UK’s European neighbor. Assange didn’t offer any specifics on when he might leave, or his future plans. It’s certainly clear from the Foreign Office’s statement that UK officials have not changed their position regarding how it intends to deal with the Australian once he steps outside of the embassy. If he ever does.

‘No way to prosecute him’ in the US

The US has made no official statement on whether it would attempt to bring Assange across the pond should he leave the Ecuadorean Embassy, though a Washington Post report toward the end of last year suggested the US Department of Justice would be unlikely to take action against him as it would then have to also go after the journalists that reported WikiLeaks’ publication of classified material.

“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at the time, adding, “If you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”

[Source: NY Times, BBC]

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is likely off the hook in the US
Julian Assange (WikiLeaks)

WikiLeaks founder Juilan Assange is likely off the hook – at least as far as the U.S. government is concerned.
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Department of Justice is unlikely to bring changes against Assange for publishing classified government documents, according to U.S. officials. The reason, say the officials, is because the DoJ could not bring charges against Assange without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations that also published some of the more than 250,000 classified State Department diplomatic cables leaked by Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning.
“The problem the department has always had in investigating Julian Assange is there is no way to prosecute him for publishing information without the same theory being applied to journalists,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller in an interview with the Post. “And if you are not going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information, which the department is not, then there is no way to prosecute Assange.”
A formal decision to drop the case against Assange has not yet been reached, however; and a grand jury is still investigating any potential legal avenues against the WikiLeaks founder. But officials say that, unless he violated other U.S. laws, Assange will likely escape prosecution by the U.S. government.
Were the U.S. to charge Assange for publishing classified material, it would need to bring cases against The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Guardian, all of which partnered with WikiLeaks in publishing State Department documents leaked by Manning, who was convicted under the Espionage Act in July, and is currently serving a 35-year sentence for the unauthorized disclosure. Journalists for these publications would also have to be charged – something the DoJ is not willing to do.
Even if Assange escapes prosecution by the U.S., his legal troubles may be far from over. He has been living in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London since Ecuador’s government granted him political asylum in the summer of 2012, in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault charges.
Assange and his supporters have maintained that the sexual assault charges were a ruse to force Assange to go to Sweden, which would then extradite him to the U.S. Without the threat of U.S. prosecution, it is currently unclear whether Assange will remain at the embassy.

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WikiLeaks helping Edward Snowden in race to find ‘safe’ country, Ecuador likely destination
edward snowden has finally joined twitter pose

Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee wanted by US authorities on charges of espionage and theft of government property, is receiving assistance from the folks behind whistleblowing site WikiLeaks as he attempts to make it to a ‘safe’ country before the US intelligence agencies make it to him.
Snowden, the man at the center of what many consider to be the most significant intelligence leak in US history, arrived in Moscow on Sunday after flying from Hong Kong, the location of his media interviews that revealed details of the National Security Agency’s top secret PRISM program involving the systematic surveillance of telephone calls and Internet communications.
The 30-year-old whistleblower told the Guardian and Washington Post the NSA has “direct access” to the servers of Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, though these companies have said that any passing of information between them and the government is always done within the framework of existing laws, and that no such “back door” access is possible.
'Providing assistance'
On its Twitter feed Sunday, WikiLeaks said it was providing assistance to Snowden in his quest to find a ‘safe’ country.
“WikiLeaks has assisted Mr. Snowden’s political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers and safe exit from Hong Kong,” the tweet said.
It’s believed Snowden will depart Russia Monday afternoon Moscow time on a flight bound for Cuba, with Ecuador likely to be his final destination – if the US fails to disrupt plans. A tweet on Sunday from Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, confirmed that his government had received an asylum request from Snowden, with WikiLeaks adding that the request would be dealt with upon his arrival in the country. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has already been granted asylum by the Latin American nation, though he’s currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London fearing deportation to Sweden – and possibly ultimately to the US – if he steps outside the building.
The US issued a provisional arrest warrant for the former Hawaii resident on Friday, and asked authorities in Hong Kong to detain him. However, Hong Kong said that after finding the US request to be incomplete there had been no legal basis to keep Snowden in the Chinese territory, and so allowed him to leave.
According to US Senator Charles Schumer, Snowden’s flight to Moscow was probably known about and approved of by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States - whether it’s Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden,” the New York Democrat told CNN. He also said he saw “the hand of Beijing” in Hong Kong’s decision to let the former CIA technician leave despite America’s request to detain him.
[Source: BBC, Reuters]

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No way out: Julian Assange marks one year inside Ecuadorian embassy in UK

You may have forgotten about him. But Julian Assange is still there, holed up inside Ecuador’s embassy in central London. And on Wednesday this week it’ll be a full year since he walked into the embassy claiming political asylum.
Julian Assange knows that despite having been granted asylum by the Latin American nation in August 2012, if he steps outside the building he’ll be immediately arrested by UK police and likely extradited to Sweden to face questioning over two alleged sexual assaults in the country.
The 41-year-old WikiLeaks founder denies any wrongdoing, but fears that being transferred to Sweden could ultimately result in him being handed over to the US authorities investigating the release of confidential and highly sensitive diplomatic files and military reports over recent years.
' living on a space station.'
In an interview granted to the AFP news agency to mark the one-year anniversary, Assange spoke of life in the embassy, outside which UK police have kept a 24/7 presence, an operation said to have so far cost somewhere in the region of £3 million ($4.7 million).
Assange told AFP reporter Katy Lee it’s been “like living on a space station” for the past 12 months. To make up for the lack of sunlight, the Australian says he’s been using a sun lamp, and runs on a treadmill for exercise.
“You ask how I deal with the difficulties of being confined,” he told Lee, “Well actually, my mind is not confined. The physical circumstances are difficult. However, I'm working every day.”
On the subject of actually leaving his space station, Assange said, “I think the position in the UK is softening. Of course, it will never publicly humiliate the United States by offering me safe passage in a manner that doesn’t seem to be forced. But there’s lots of ways of saving the pride of Sweden, Australia, the UK and the United States.”
The anniversary comes as the US authorities seek to make contact with American Edward Snowden, who hit the headlines recently when he was named as the man responsible for exposing PRISM, a huge Internet surveillance program operated by the National Security Agency. He is currently thought to be in Hong Kong.
“Mr. Snowden is as good an example of a hero as any,” Assange told Lee.
He said the former CIA employee had performed “an extremely courageous act” and praised him for revealing America’s “creeping mass surveillance state.”
However, Assange said he feared Snowden could end up in the same situation as Bradley Manning, “detained without trial, abused in prison and now facing life imprisonment.” After spending three years in detention, Manning’s trial, on charges connected with the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents to WikiLeaks, finally got underway earlier this month.
As for Assange, his future is still far from certain. Swedish court? US prison? Ecuadorian beach? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure – he must be dying to get out of that embassy.

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