Julian Assange leaving Ecuadorian embassy 'soon'

The Wikileaks founder is rumoured to be struggling with health issues on top of his legal problems in Sweden and the US.

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in London's Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. Iwona Abessolo/Flickr Vision/Getty

Julian Assange will "soon" leave the embassy where he has been holed up for more than two years. Facing legal strife and rumoured health issues, the Wikileaks founder made the announcement in a press conference today, broadcast live from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

An exact date has not been given, but it is not expected to be today. Assange refused to elaborate on his statement, hinting that he would leave "for different reasons" than those suggested in recent media reports of ill health.

After the press conference, the BBC has quoted a Wikileaks spokesperson who says Assange will leave when the UK government "honours its obligations." Which obligations that refers to is unclear, as Assange is subject to a European Arrest Warrant that requires UK police to arrest him and send him to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault allegations.

Assange has been ensconced in the Ecuadorian embassy for two years and two months. He is claiming asylum in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden because he claims he is concerned he would from there be extradited to the US.

The 43-year-old Australian is the founder of Wikileaks, a website that has published more than 8 million anonymously leaked documents since 2006 and is under investigation by the United States government. The investigation involves classified military documents published by Wikileaks, and last year saw the soldier who leaked the documents, Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning, sentenced to 35 years in prison.

British police have been present at the embassy for the length of Assange's time there, and are set to arrest him as soon as he steps outside. No charges have been brought against him in Sweden, where his lawyers have lodged an appeal against the warrant for his arrest.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, seated alongside Assange at today's press conference, said, "This situation must come to an end. Two years is simply too long."

 

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