Julian Assange, who is reportedly suffering from a heart defect and chronic lung conditions due to his two-year-long confinement within the Ecuadorian embassy in London, is planning to leave soon, the WikiLeaks founder announced to the media Monday. Assange sought asylum in the embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden.
Assange, 43, is currently unable to seek medical treatment for fear of being arrested if he steps out of the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange has been living inside the building in Knightsbridge, London, after being granted diplomatic asylum in August 2012. London police have been stationed outside the embassy for the last two years in order to arrest him if he attempts to leave, the Telegraph reported. A Sky News report had earlier reported that one of the Pentagon's most wanted men could be planning to hand himself over to the police.
"I am leaving the embassy soon ... but perhaps not for the reasons that Murdoch press and Sky news are saying at the moment," he told reporters at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London, Reuters reported, but did not further clarify his comments.
The British government intends to extradite Assange under a European Arrest Warrant to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault. The WikiLeaks founder argues that if he is extradited to Sweden, he will then be taken to the U.S. where he will face charges for publishing classified documents about the Pentagon’s activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and could face imprisonment for up to 35 years.
Two years of living within the air-conditioned interiors of the embassy has left Assange with arrhythmia, a chronic cough and high blood pressure, the Telegraph reported, citing WikiLeaks sources.
The Ecuadorian embassy has reportedly asked the U.K. Foreign Office for permission to transport Assange to a hospital in a diplomatic car but has not yet received a response. London's Metropolitan Police said that it did not wish to discuss whether Assange would face immediate arrest if he went to a hospital. The former computer hacker is reportedly being helped by a former Special Air Services veteran to remain fit, and has complained about the amount of money being spent on confining him.
“The broader geopolitics is that the world is going crazy. Maybe it’s time to think that WikiLeaks is not the main problem here for the West, maybe me and my publishing house are a lesser threat than say the Islamic State in Iraq or, closer to home, paedophiles in Westminster,” Assange was quoted as saying in the Telegraph. "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?” he added.
Amal Alamuddin, a human rights lawyer and George Clooney’s fianceé, represents Assange and reportedly spent more than two hours with him last week. Assange is hopeful that a diplomatic solution will be reached between the UK and Ecuador allowing him to travel to his freedom.
British authorities have confiscated his passport he said. “It’s not like I can go into the Australian Consulate to get a replacement,” he said, adding: "I would want an understanding – formal or informal – that I would be given time to leave the UK before the US puts in an extradition bid. And then I’d go to my children, like any father.”