Julian Assange: After two years inside, he says he will leave embassy

The Australian, who claimed political asylum inside the London embassy to avoid prosecution for sex crimes, addressed speculation

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed he will leave the Ecuadorean embassy “soon” after spending more than two years inside the building to avoid being arrested.

The Australian-born technology expert, who claimed political asylum inside the London embassy to avoid prosecution for sex crimes, addressed speculation he was about to hand himself in to police.

Questioned by reporters at a press conference yesterday, Mr Assange said: “I am leaving the embassy soon, but perhaps not for the reasons the Murdoch press and Sky News are saying at the moment”.

He was referring to reports that he has suffered from problems with his heart and his lungs. However, although he did not respond to specific questions about his health, Mr Assange admitted: “Being detained for four years in various ways, and in this embassy for two years, with no sunlight, it is reasonable for any healthy person to find themselves with certain difficulties.”

Read more: Julian Assange might have been made ill after two years in the Ecuadorian embassy
America might be waging a war on whistleblowers, but Julian Assange is still a prisoner of his own ego  

His spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson later confirmed: “He is ready to leave at any moment as soon as the ridiculous siege outside will stop and he is offered safe passage.”

Mr Assange claimed political asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual offences made by two women. More than £7m of public money has been spent guarding the embassy since he fled there in 2012. The anti-privacy campaigner, who denies the accusations, fears if he travelled to Sweden he will eventually be extradited to the United States to face charges over WikiLeaks’ mass disclosure of US government secrets.

Ecuador granted Mr Assange political asylum but the WikiLeaks founder has been unable to leave its London embassy and travel to the south American country for fear he would be intercepted by the Metropolitan Police, who are obliged to enforce a European arrest warrant obtained by Swedish police.

Appearing alongside Mr Assange at the press conference, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said: “We call on the international community to join a much-needed international campaign to guarantee freedom and human rights for Assange. We uphold Julian Assange’s status as a political asylee.

Members of the media outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Tuesday, where Julian Assange gave a press conference Members of the media outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Tuesday, where Julian Assange gave a press conference (Getty)

“We continue to offer him our protection and we continue to be ready to talk to the British and Swedish government to try to find a solution to this serious breach of Julian Assange’s human rights.”

Mr Patino said he was hoping to set up a meeting and discuss the case with the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond “over the coming weeks”.He also indicated that Britain rejected a request from Ecuador to allow Mr Assange to be taken to hospital in a diplomatic car without risk of arrest.

Reports over the weekend sourced to “WikiLeaks insiders” suggested Mr Assange is suffering from a potentially life-threatening heart condition, a chronic lung condition and dangerously high blood pressure. The anonymous comments appeared in a Mail on Sunday interview with Mr Assange in which he made no mention of his health.

In Sweden, lawyers for Mr Assange recently failed to overturn the arrest warrant on human rights grounds. Judge Lena Egelin said: “The court believes there is probable cause for the crimes of which he is accused. He has chosen himself to go into the embassy and … the court does not believe that the deprivation of his liberty is such as to be disproportionate” to the allegations that he faces.

Video: London Live discuss Assange's potential trial

Mr Assange argues that if he returns to Sweden to face the allegations of sexual offences involving two women in 2010, he will eventually be extradited to the US where he could face 35 years in prison for publishing classified documents related to the Pentagon’s activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Mr Assange, 43, said “the world is going crazy”. “Maybe it’s time to think that WikiLeaks is not the main problem for the West, maybe me and my publishing house are a lesser threat than say [Isis] in Iraq or, closer to home, paedophiles in Westminster,” he said.

“Why are they burning £240,000 a month on me which could be better spent on hospital beds, meals for the needy or teachers’ salaries?”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions