WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says secret U.S. military documents indicate his life is at risk if he’s handed over to the U.S.
Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June to avoid being extradited to Sweden on allegations of sex crimes, said U.S. Air Force documents obtained under a freedom of information request show the U.S. has designated him as an “enemy.”
“The U.S. administration is trying to erect a national regime of secrecy,” Assange said in comments broadcast last night at a meeting in the United Nations’ headquarters in New York. “A regime where any government employee revealing sensitive information to a media organization can be sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage.”
Ecuador’s government, whose decision to grant asylum to the anti-secrecy activist set off a diplomatic row with the U.K., is seeking British guarantees they won’t allow the Australian national to be turned over to the U.S., where Assange says he could face torture and execution.
Assange sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy after exhausting options in U.K. courts to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning on allegations of rape and sexual misconduct. British officials have rejected Ecuador’s concerns he will be handed over to the U.S. if he is sent to the Nordic nation.
“There is sufficient evidence that Mr. Assange could be taken to the U.S. and face not only the death penalty or life in prison, but other types of punishment,” Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said last night at the UN meeting.
Assange said the documents posted yesterday on the WikiLeaks website have been in the group’s possession for months, and formed part of his asylum request to Ecuador, though were kept secret until now out of security concerns.
“We should not underestimate the scale of the investigation which is happening to WikiLeaks,” Assange said.
At a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly today, British Foreign Secretary William Hague tried to dispel fears Assange’s human rights would be violated, saying Patino should “closely” study safeguards in U.K. extradition law, according to an e-mailed statement from the British Foreign Office. No solution to the standoff was reached.
WikiLeaks published a report on its website yesterday that it says was written by the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations. The report, dated May 31, 2012, details a probe of a U.S. soldier suspected of “communicating with the enemy” by leaking classified information and allegedly meeting with “anti-US and/or anti-military” groups in London. It didn’t specify what groups the suspect allegedly met with, though WikiLeaks is named elsewhere in the heavily-redacted report.
The U.S. Defense Department had no immediate comment when contacted by e-mail.
Patrick Lowe, a spokesman for Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr, said in a phone interview from New York that the documents were obtained through a freedom of information request.
“It’s not a matter for Australia,” he said, declining to comment further.
Assange, first arrested in London in December 2010, is accused in Sweden of failing to use a condom with one woman and having sex with another while she was asleep. The women, both supporters of WikiLeaks, let Assange stay at their homes during a speaking tour in Sweden in 2010. He hasn’t been charged with a crime.
Assange claims the U.S. seeks to punish him for releasing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks. The allegations against him became public around the same time he posted the leaked cables on the Internet.