Bri­tain urged to grant safe pas­sage to As­sange

New Straits Times - - World -

STOCK­HOLM: Ecuador’s For­eign Min­is­ter Guil­laume Long urged Bri­tain yes­ter­day to “grant safe pas­sage” out of the coun­try to Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange after Swe­den dropped a war­rant that drove him to take refuge in Ecuador’s Lon­don em­bassy.

“The Euro­pean ar­rest war­rant no longer holds. The UK must now grant safe pas­sage to Mr Ju­lian As­sange,” min­is­ter Guil­laume Long wrote on Twit­ter.

As­sange, 45, took refuge in the em­bassy in June 2012 to avoid ex­tra­di­tion to Swe­den after two women made rape and sex­ual mo­lesta­tion al­le­ga­tions against him, which he de­nies. He feared Swe­den would hand him over to the United States to face pros­e­cu­tion over Wik­iLeaks’ pub­li­ca­tion of clas­si­fied mil­i­tary and diplo­matic doc­u­ments.

As­sange tweeted yes­ter­day: “De­tained for seven years with­out charge while my chil­dren grew up and my name was slan­dered. I do not for­give or for­get.”

Swedish chief pros­e­cu­tor Mar­i­anne Ny said the rape in­ves­ti­ga­tion could not pro­ceed be­cause of le­gal ob­sta­cles.

“We are not making a state­ment about his guilt,” Ny said, adding that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion could be re­opened if As­sange came to Swe­den be­fore the statute of lim­i­ta­tions dead­line for the rape al­le­ga­tion in 2020.

Lon­don po­lice said they were obliged to ar­rest As­sange, if he left the em­bassy, for skip­ping bail. They said he could face up to a year in jail if con­victed.

As­sange is a cy­ber­hero to some for ex­pos­ing gov­ern­ment abuses of power and cham­pi­oning free speech, but to oth­ers, he is a crim­i­nal who has un­der­mined the se­cu­rity of the West.

The for­mer com­puter hacker en­raged Wash­ing­ton by pub­lish­ing hun­dreds of thousands of se­cret US diplo­matic ca­bles that laid bare highly crit­i­cal US ap­praisals of world lead­ers.

As­sange had said he was will­ing to go to the US if his rights were up­held and if ex-mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst Chelsea Man­ning, who gave clas­si­fied ma­ter­ials to Wik­iLeaks, was freed. Man­ning was re­leased on Wed­nes­day after spend­ing seven years in a mil­i­tary prison. Agen­cies

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