WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he will remain at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he is currently seeking political asylum and does not plan to surrender himself to the police.
British law enforcement officials served Assange a letter of extradition on Thursday, which ordered the 40-year-old WikiLeaks founder to visit a police station “at a time of our choosing.”
“Julian will remain in the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government. This should not be considered any sign of disrespect. Under both international and domestic UK law asylum assessments take priority over extradition claims,” Susan Benn from the Julian Assange Defence Fund explained in a statement obtained by the BBC.
“The issues faced by Assange are serious. His life and liberty and the life and liberty of his organization and those associated with it are at stake.”
According to Benn, Assange does not feel safe from US extradition in the UK, as he is “all too aware” of the abuses of the US-UK extradition treaty.
“Although [Julian] has been trapped in the UK under dangerous circumstances, he has at least had the freedom to apply for political asylum.
“It is in this context that Julian has made the difficult decision to seek refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy to ask for asylum. Julian will remain in the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while evidence for his application is being assembled and processed,” she added.
Assange expressed similar sentiments in a Friday interview.
“Our advice is that asylum law both internationally and domestically in the UK takes precedence to extradition law, so the answer [of surrendering to police] is almost certainly not.”
Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19 after all attempts to fight extradition to Sweden – where the WikiLeaks founder faces charges of sexual assault – failed. Assange, who denies the accusations, is concerned that extradition to Sweden could ultimately lead to his eventual transfer to the United States.
His concerns were echoed last week by a US lobbying group known as “Just Foreign Policy,” which sent a formal letter to Ecuador asking the country’s prime minister to grant Assange asylum. Its signatories included a number of prominent filmmakers, writers, lawyers and civil rights campaigners – such as Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and Noam Chomsky.
“There is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned and likely extradited to the United States,” they wrote. “Were he charged and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty.”