Assange 'has lung condition' - but hospital could mean arrest
Ecuador reveals effects of Julian Assange's isolation, but he still faces arrest if he goes to hospital
JULIAN ASSANGE is suffering from a chronic lung condition after being holed up since June in a small room in Ecuador’s London embassy, according to the Ecuadorean ambassador, Ana Alban.
Her announcement follows attempts by Ecuador to arrange for the WikiLeaks editor to be granted safe passage to a hospital for treatment. Britain has not backed down from its line that Assange will be arrested and extradited to Sweden if he leaves the building.
Assange first took refuge in the Knightsbridge embassy in June after exhausting all legal avenues to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted in connection with alleged sex crimes, and from where he fears he will be extradited to the US, where he could face lengthy imprisonment for leaking diplomatic secrets. He was formally granted political asylum in August.
In an interview with Ecuadorean TV, reported by the BBC, Alban said: "He has a chronic lung complaint that could get worse any time. The Ecuadorean state is covering Mr Assange's medical costs and we have arranged for regular doctor visits to check on his health.
"Mr Assange, as everyone knows, is in a confined space. Not only does the embassy have few windows but the city is also dark at this time - we have very little daylight in London. He is exposed to any health consequences from this lack of sunlight and lack of fresh air."
Assange is known to use a sun lamp to stave off vitamin D deficiency, but he refuses to talk about his health to reporters. Ecuadorean officials appear to have no such qualms.
In September, The Guardian reported that Ecuadorean foreign minister Ricardo Patino had said embassy staff were prepared to set up an operating theatre in the building if Britain would not guarantee that Assange would be allowed safe passage to hospital and back.
The UK has said only that it will not prevent "any medical care that he requires".
Alban said Ecuadorean officials are waiting for a meeting either with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague or Home Secretary Theresa May over the issue of safe passage.