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France says 'non' to Assange asylum plea

Ben McPartland · 3 Jul 2015, 13:06

Published: 03 Jul 2015 11:13 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Jul 2015 13:06 GMT+02:00

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Assange, who denies sex crimes in Stockholm four years ago, wrote an open letter to the French president asking François Hollande to "welcome" him in France.

His plea was published in the newspaper Le Monde on Friday - which marks the birthday of the Wikileaks' founder.

The Australian has been ensconced in Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.

The 44-year-old is due to be questioned in the British capital by Swedish prosecutors later this month, after they previously refused to travel to the UK to talk to him.

His plea to France came after Wikileaks published a revelations that the US spy program NSA snooped on three French presidents as well as top ministers and business deals between 2006 and 2012.

The long letter, which was titled "Mr Hollande, Welcome me in France", started with Assange introducing himself as "Julian Paul Assange, born on July 3rd, 1971 in Townsville.

It then went into detail about his story and spells out the danger he is in.

"I am a journalist who has been pursued and threatened with death by the US authorities because of my professional activities.

"I have never been formally charged with an offense or a common crime, anywhere in the world, including Sweden and the UK," Assange wrote.

In his letter to Hollande, Assange said he had not seen his youngest child or the child's mother -- both French -- for five years.
"I have had to keep their existence secret up to today in order to protect them," he wrote.

TIMELINE: The Julian Assange sex allegations

Assange said he was encouraged by the political outrage in France over the recent spying revelations as well as the move by MPs to introduce a law to protect whistleblowers.

In the wake of the spying scandal, several French politicians have called on the president to grant Assange asylum.

The Australian, who has spent over three years holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, told Hollande that the French constitution obliged the country "to protect those who fight for freedoms and whose lives are threatened.

"By welcoming me, it would be a humanitarian gesture by France."

Story continues below…

However Assange's demand fell on deaf ears and was firmly and swiftly rejected by Hollande.

A statement from the presidential palace read: "France has received the letter from Mr Assange. A closer examination shows that when taking account of the legal elements and the situation of Mr. Assange, France can not act on his request."

"The situation of Mr Assange presents no immediate danger. He is also the subject of a European arrest warrant."
Assange is wanted in Sweden over allegations by two women, one of rape and one of sexual assault, which he denies.
The former computer hacker fears extradition to Sweden could lead to him being transferred to the United States to face trial over WikiLeaks' publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents.
He claimed last month that Swedish prosecutors had cancelled a long-awaited interview regarding his case.
Prosecutors had long insisted that he travel to Sweden for questioning but in March they agreed to go to London because some of the alleged offences will reach their statute of limitations in August.
But at the last minute, the interview was cancelled on the grounds that the prosecutors had not received permission from Ecuador to enter its embassy.
A criminal investigation is ongoing in the US into WikiLeaks' release in 2010 of 500,000 classified military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 250,000 diplomatic cables.
The main source of the leaks, US Army soldier Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for breaches of the Espionage Act.




Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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