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Wikileaks founder Assange denies he sought asylum in France

By Amy R. Connolly
Wikileaks founder Assange denies he sought asylum in France
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives for the final day of his Supreme Court hearing to avoid extradition to Sweden in London in February 2012. Friday, France rejected Assange's asylum request, noting his life is not in immediate danger and he is facing a European arrest warrant. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

PARIS, July 4 (UPI) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied claims he filed a request for political asylum in France after he published a letter in a French newspaper suggesting otherwise.

However, Assange's lawyer said Saturday if the offer was extended, his client would react "positively."

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"His letter was a response to the declarations of Christiane Taubira, Minister of Justice, and to an open letter from French civil society, signed by over forty major public figures, calling for him to be protected by France," attorney Baltasar Garzon said.

"My client has stated that, if the competent French authorities decided to give him protection, he would receive this offer positively. No part of the letter that was sent to the President of the Republic of France can be interpreted in any different way."

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Friday, France swiftly rejected the presumed asylum request from Assange, noting his life is not in immediate danger and he is facing a European arrest warrant.

Assange, who is living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about sexual-assault allegations, wrote an open letter to President Francois Hollande published in the French daily newspaper Le Monde, alleging he has been the target of political persecution.

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"I am a journalist who has been pursued and threatened with death by U.S. authorities because of my professional activities," Assange wrote. "By welcoming me, France would carry out a humanitarian and symbolic gesture, sending encouragement to every journalist and whistleblower."

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Assange, who has been living in the embassy since 2012, has not been charged and denies the sex allegations. He fears if he is sent to Sweden for questioning, he would be extradited to the United States, where he is wanted for questioning about leaking classified government information.

Hollande firmly rejected Assange's request, stating, "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."

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