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Julian Assange in ill health, plans to leave embassy asylum 'soon'

After more than two years' asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Julian Assange said he intends to leave soon, but would not specify when.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   Aug. 18, 2014 at 8:35 AM   |   Comments

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LONDON, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Julian Assange said he plans to "soon" leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after more than two years in refuge there, but refused to give details.

"I can confirm that I am leaving the embassy soon but perhaps not for the reasons that the Murdoch press are saying," he said Monday.

Assange, 43, is said to have developed a severe Vitamin D deficiency and a chronic lung complaint as a result of his being cooped up in a small, sunless room since June 2010. He is also believed to have developed a potentially life-threatening heart arrhythmia.

In a rambling 50-minute press conference at the embassy, Assange said his health had suffered greatly during his stay and offered deep criticism over the ongoing investigations by the Swedish and U.S. governments.

The Wikileaks founder, who is wanted in Sweden on sexual assault charges alleged by two women, claims he is the victim of a human rights scandal and that the charges were inventions to enable him to be arrested and extradited to the U.S. to face questioning over the 2010 release of thousands of classified cables.

"How can it be that such a situation in Europe arises where a person is held and their freedom of movement restricted and they are kept from their family while a foreign government, the US, builds an ever larger case against that person and their organization?" he said. "Somehow the situation has developed here for me, but also some others, where basic rights that were previously universally accepted in Europe are no longer respected."

Assange's asylum comes at a cost to British taxpayers of at least £11,000 ($18,400) per day, totaling more than £7 million since 2012. The round-the-clock guard would arrest Assange immediately if he were to step foot outside the embassy.

Last week, Assange was denied an appeal to have his arrest warrant canceled, but on Monday, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino called for an end to the situation.

"It is time to free Julian Assange," Patino said, adding that he planned to meet with U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in the next "few weeks" to discuss Assange's case. "It is time for his human rights to finally be respected."

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