/ 21 June 2013

Assange to remain in Ecuadorian embassy

Assange To Remain In Ecuadorian Embassy

Assange fears moves are already under way by the United States to prosecute him on espionage charges, he has said.

On the eve of the anniversary of his seeking asylum in the embassy in Knightsbridge, central London, Assange said he believed a sealed indictment had already been lodged by a grand jury in Virginia, which could see him being arrested and extradited by Britain to the US to face prosecution over the WikiLeaks cable releases.

"The strong view of my US lawyer is that there is already a sealed indictment, which means I would be arrested, unless the British government gave information or guarantees that would grant me safe passage," the WikiLeaks founder said on Tuesday.

"We know there is an ongoing investigation in the US and we know I am a target of the federal grand jury. There is a 99.97% chance that I will be indicted. So … I cannot leave the embassy. My lawyers have advised me I should not leave the embassy because of the risk of arrest and extradition to the US."

The British foreign secretary, William Hague, and his Ecuadorian opposite number Ricardo Patiño met on Monday to discuss the ongoing diplomatic stalemate, but were unable to reach an agreement.

Ecuador argues that having been granted political asylum, Assange should be allowed to board a plane to Quito unimpeded, but the British authorities have insisted they will not let him leave without acting on the Swedish warrant. The two countries agreed to set up a legal working group in an attempt to arrive at a solution to the impasse.

Asked if he regretted seeking asylum because of the resulting stalemate, Assange said: "Strategically, it has been exactly what I hoped for."

Living and working from a small room in the embassy was less stressful than the 600 days he spent on bail wearing an electronic tag, Assange said, although he admitted that it took "diligence" to stay healthy with limited access to natural light. "You can get rickets by not having any sunlight – it is not healthy to be in this position." – © Guardian News & Media 2013