Assange asks for guarantee of safety

Feb. 1, 2011 at 11:54 AM
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MELBOURNE, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called on the Australian government to assure his safety home in advance of his extradition hearing on sexual assault charges.

Assange is expected in a London court Monday to begin the extradition to Sweden to face possible sexual assault charges, The Age in Melbourne, Assange's hometown, reported Tuesday.

Defense attorney Rob Stary, a member of Assange's Melbourne legal team, said the Wikileaks founder recorded a 10-minute tape in which he thanked Australians supporters. Assange's address is expected to be played Friday during a free speech forum in Melbourne, The Age said.

"He wants to return to Australia, he wants to return safely here, knowing he'll have the support of the government. He insists that the government intervene to protect him," Stary said.

Stary told The Age embassy officials contacted Assange when he was in jail in London late last year, but Assange hasn't received any government assistance since. He has been released on bail and has been under electronic monitoring at a London-area home.

Two WikiLeaks volunteers accused Assange of forcing them to have sex with him without a condom in Sweden last August. The sexual misconduct charges against Assange, which he denies, are part of a firestorm of controversy in which he has found himself since WikiLeaks started releasing some of the 250,000 U.S. State Department cables the Web site possesses. WikiLeaks previously released hundreds of thousands of U.S. military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has called Assange's role in the documents' publication "illegal" two weeks before an investigation determined Assange did not commit a crime under Australian law.

"She knew there was an Australian Federal Police investigation pending when she made those comments," Stary said. "And yet she was prepared to say at that point -- prior to any finding of the AFP -- that he behaved unlawfully and reprehensibly."

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