Assange may be unable to leave Britain until 2015
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Last Updated: Saturday, March 30, 2013, 19:50
  
London: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been confined to the Ecuadorean embassy in London since last June, is unlikely to be able to leave Britain before 2015 and his hosts are now hoping for a future Labour government to help break the impasse, a media report said.

The Ecuadorean government has been seeking a commitment from the UK's Conservative-led coalition that it will not support Assange's extradition to the US if he goes to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.

Given the ongoing diplomatic stand-off, Ecuadorean diplomats now seem to have set their sights on a possible change in government in the 2015 British General Elections and approached the Opposition Labour Party for a similar assurance.

Ecuador's ambassador, Ana Alban, reportedly raised Assange's case during a meeting with the shadow foreign minister, Kerry McCarthy.

"Ecuador wants to see the current situation resolved but has lost all faith in the current government's willingness to do that. They have approached the Labour Party in the hope of striking a deal for after the next election. They do not believe that it is beneficial for Mr Assange to be resident permanently in the London embassy," a source told The Independent newspaper here.

A Labour spokesperson, however, stressed that no meeting had been called to specifically discuss Assange but the talks are believed to have taken place on the periphery of a meeting between McCarthy and representatives of the Ecuadorean government in London.

Labour is unlikely to take an official stand on the issue before the elections in 2015. Assange, 41, is subject to a European arrest warrant since November 2010 and wanted for questioning by Swedish police in relation to a sex assault investigation.

He has maintained that he would travel to Sweden to prove his innocence if the US threat were lifted but until then he is restricted to the South American nation's embassy in Knightsbridge.

His request for asylum was granted and he has been living at the embassy in central London since last June.

British police is on permanent guard ready to arrest him if he steps outside. The WikiLeaks editor-in-chief had claimed diplomatic asylum there after UK Home Secretary Theresa May ordered his extradition to Sweden following a lengthy legal battle.

The Swedish authorities would need May's authorisation before agreeing to any onward US extradition request but she has rejected repeated calls to say that she would refuse permission and failed to come up with an alternative solution.

In September last year, Amnesty International had said it believed that a "forced transfer" would represent a "real risk of serious human-rights violations".

However, some of the celebrity backers of the Australian activist have been expressing their disaffection with the cause taken up in favour of press freedom and anti-censorship.

Jemima Khan, the columnist ex-wife of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, had been one of Assange's closest allies and even put up bail money in his favour.

But, in a critical article in the New Statesman, last month, she warned him of undermining his own transparency agenda by refusing to face up to the Swedish allegations.

Meanwhile, work on a biopic tracing the WikiLeaks story titled The Fifth Estate is now complete.

English actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Assange in the film, is believed to have struck up an email friendship with the Australian publisher-editor, who had earlier dismissed the film as "a massive propaganda attack on WikiLeaks and the character of my staff" and called it a "lie on lie".

PTI


First Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013, 19:49


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