News Column

WikiLeaks' Assange Needs Medical Care, Says Envoy

Nov. 29, 2012

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, is suffering from a serious lung condition and requires medical treatment, ambassador Ana Alban was reported as saying Thursday.

Alban, Ecuador's ambassador to Britain, said in an interview with the newspaper El Ciudadano that she would ask the British government to grant Assange safe passage to leave the embassy for medical treatment.

"Mr Assange, as everyone knows, is in a confined space," Alban said. "He is exposed to any health consequences from this lack of sunlight and lack of fresh air."

"Not only does the embassy have few windows but the city is also dark at this time - we have very little daylight in London."

Assange sought refuge at the embassy, just behind Harrod's department store in central London, in June, in an attempt to avoid his extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations.

He was later granted political asylum by Ecuador. But the British government have said he would be arrested if he left the diplomatic territory, as he had broken bail conditions.

Alban said the 41-year-old Australian required constant medical attention, and his condition could "get worse at any moment."

The British government said it would not prevent "any medical care that he requires."

Assange lives and works in a tiny flat at the embassy, where he summoned a handful of journalists to a news conference this week to talk about WikiLeaks finances.

The number of staff at the embassy has doubled since Assange arrived, and a special telephone line has been installed for him.

After the embassy closes for business, Assange often receives "certain people who want to visit him for different reasons whether they be activists, supporters, lawyers or friends," said the ambassador.

Assange gave a glimpse of his life at the embassy in an interview with the BBC in October, revealing that he takes fitness lessons in his tiny bathroom.

"I have very solid friends here, some from the UK military, and they come and train me," said Assange. Being in a confined space was not a problem, he added.

"It's not particularly different for me, I had 10 days solitary confinement in this country, 18 months under house arrest with a manacle around my ankle. It's normal for me."

Assange, who was arrested in London at the request of Sweden in December, 2010, denies the sexual offences. He fled to the embassy after exhausting all legal avenues in Britain to stop his extradition.

He claims that the plan to extradite him to Sweden is "politically motivated," and could lead to his handover to the US in connection with the publication of tens of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks from 2010.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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