Man, it's already been two years? Indeed, it has — Julian Assange is leaving Britain's Ecuadorian embassy soon, where he's been confined since June 2012, according to Assange. The Wikileaks founder has been in hiding in the embassy — though still maintaining a public profile, and conducting video interviews throughout — in an effort to avoid legal proceedings in Sweden, where he's wanted for questioning over two sexual assault allegations.
Assange has maintained that an appearance in Sweden to confront the charges, which he denies, would result in his extradition to the United States, which would really like to prosecute him for exposing countless troves of classified government documents. Assange announced his intention to depart the embassy in rather cryptic terms Monday, in a press conference alongside Equador's foreign minister Ricardo Patiño, according to The New York Times.
I am leaving the embassy soon. But perhaps not for the reasons that the Murdoch press and Sky News are saying at the moment.
It's entirely unclear where exactly Assange will be going. So long as he remains within its confines, Assange is safely under Equadorian asylum, but as wanted and infamous an international figure as he is, even poking his head outside for a few minutes could pose big problems.
Assange claimed that his health was suffering as a result of his long-term confinement. As far as being cooped up inside goes, he reportedly has a decent set-up there — the Times reports that his office space was converted into a tiny studio, complete with Internet, TV, kitchenwares and a treadmill for fitness. But regardless of amenities, it's a freedomless way to live, and it's easy to figure how anyone would want to, well, stop.
And according to a recent report in the Daily Mail, alleged by an anonymous Wikileaks source, Assange's health issues may be a dire result of this long-term confinement. Thanks to the lack of sunlight (and thus, Vitamin D) he's received, the source claims he's suffering from a host of maladies — high blood pressure, a dangerous heart arrhythmia, and chronic respiratory problems.
After the press conference, Assange spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson elaborated and kind of backtracked, according to The Wall Street Journal (part of the "Murdoch press" Assange alluded to, incidentally) emphasizing that Assange was ready to leave when he got assurance he wouldn't be immediately placed under arrest.
Despite whatever opinions the British public may have about Assange, they'll appreciate the financial relief that would come from him moving on to different pastures — his two-year stay has cost the British government more than $10 million, thanks to his round-the-clock police supervision. The British government's official position is that Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face those aforementioned charges, which they reiterated in a statement Monday.
We are clear that our laws must be followed and Mr. Assange should be extradited to Sweden. As ever we look to Ecuador to help bring this difficult, and costly, situation to an end.
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