Assange in ‘Fighting Spirits,’ Thanks Ecuador for Protection
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in “fighting spirits” and will seek legal measures to protect himself and his organization, his legal adviser said.
Assange, 41, has taken refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in central London, where he has been since June 19 after exhausting options in U.K. courts to avert extradition to Sweden. The Australian citizen faces questioning on allegations of rape and sexual molestation. Ecuador granted him asylum on Aug. 16.
“I have spoken to Julian Assange and I can tell you he is in fighting spirits and he is thankful to the people of Ecuador and especially to the president for granting asylum,” the adviser Baltasar Garzon said in a televised statement outside the embassy building today. Assange “has always fought for truth and justice and has defended human rights and continues to do so. He demands that WikiLeaks and his own rights be respected.”
At least three dozen Metropolitan Police Service officers were on duty outside the embassy, adjacent to the Harrods department store, where a crowd of protesters, Assange supporters and media had gathered in the expectation that Assange himself will make a statement later today. Some supporters carried homemade signs saying “Free Assange” and “Protect Assange. Protect Freedom to Publish!”
Charlie Davies, 23, from London, said: “Julian Assange stands for freedom of speech. Julian Assange stands as a martyr for the information war with censorship.”
Garzon said Assange has instructed his lawyers to take legal action “to protect the rights of WikiLeaks, Julian himself and all those currently being investigated.”
The U.K. government last week said it has a “binding obligation” to extradite Assange to Sweden and intends to fulfill it. It said it doesn’t recognize the concept of “diplomatic asylum” and won’t grant safe passage out of Britain.
Assange, first arrested in London in December 2010, breached the terms of his bail by staying at the embassy and may be arrested again if he steps outside the building, the Metropolitan Police said in June.
The U.K. Court of Appeal ruled in November that he should return to Sweden to face the allegations. He hasn’t been charged with a crime.
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