Julian Assange: 'I will leave Ecuadorian embassy soon'
Fugitive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says he will soon leave the embassy where he has been living since 2012
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, announced today that he will "soon" leave the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been holed up for two years, but declined to say precisely when or why.
He made the announcement at a press conference alongside the Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino at the embassy in central London. According to reports, Assange requires urgent treatment for heart and lung problems, but in a series of sometimes cryptic replies to journalists' questions, Assange said that he will not be leaving the embassy for any of the reasons that have been reported so far.
The Guardian's Mark Tran called the press conference an "odd" event which raised more questions than it answered: "Assange’s declaration that he will leave 'soon' has flummoxed rather than enlightened," he said.
In 2012, the 43-year-old took refuge at Ecuador's embassy after losing a legal bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault.
Assange denies the allegations but said he does not want to go to Sweden due to fears he could be extradited from there to the United States to be questioned about leaking classified documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the press conference this morning, Patino said: "There have been two years of great uncertainty and a lack of legal protection. This situation must come to an end. Two years is simply too long. It is time to free Julian Assange. It is time for his human rights to finally be respected."
Sky News had reported earlier in the day that Assange intended to use the press conference to hand himself in to police. Sky's crime correspondent Martin Brunt said: "Assange gave a newspaper interview yesterday in which he sounded very dispirited. A lot of the fighting spirit seems to have gone out of him. It's also been made clear from those around him that he's quite ill.
"He's said to have a heart condition, a chronic lung complaint, bad eyesight, high blood-pressure, all as a result of ... two years in the Ecuadorian embassy".
But, rather than appearing frail and defeated, Assange seemed composed throughout the press conference and refused to be drawn on why he intends to leave the embassy.
Ecuadorian officials previously requested permission to take Assange to hospital but have still received no reply from British authorities at the Foreign Office, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
It remains unclear precisely when Assange intends to leave.
Julian Assange: Swedish court upholds arrest warrant
A Swedish court has upheld the arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted for questioning in an ongoing investigation into allegations of rape and sexual molestation.
In the case's "first official legal debate" since Assange claimed asylum at London's Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, the court rejected a request by his lawyers, Tholmas Olsson and Per Samuelson, for the dismissal of the warrant, reports The Guardian.
The defence team had attacked "the "passivity" of Swedish prosecutors" in their refusal to question Assange in London. The prosecutors insisted "that interviewing a suspect abroad was not appropriate in crimes of a sexual nature".
"The court believes there is probable cause for the crimes of which he is accused," said judge Lena Egelin. She also rejected claims that the warrant had restricted Assange's personal freedoms, saying that "the court does not believe that the deprivation of his liberty is such as to be disproportionate" to accusations made against him.
The ruling was applauded by Elisabeth Massi Fritz, a lawyer for one of Assange's alleged victims. "This was a proper and expected decision by the Stockholm district court," she said afterwards. "Assange cannot dictate the terms of the Swedish investigation. Sooner or later he will be arrested and brought to Sweden."
Assange's lawyers have promised to appeal against the court's decision as early as next week. Olsson said his team was "confident and have strong legal arguments to get the decision overruled.
"It took two hours today for the judge to rule," he said, "so it must have been a difficult decision."
The judgment confirms that Assange risks arrest and extradition to Sweden if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy. "He's going to get nicked, if he comes out," a Metropolitan police sergeant told The Guardian.
Julian Assange to model at next London Fashion Week
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will reportedly make his modelling debut at London Fashion Week this September.
The whistleblower, who has been camping out at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, will apparently model a collection designed by Ben Westwood, son of Dame Vivienne Westwood.
Assange, who is wanted for extradition to Sweden on sex assault charges, will not risk arrest by leaving his bunker – as the catwalk is coming to him.
He will be joined by six models at a fashion show staged at the embassy, reports the Daily Mail. The outfits will be inspired by Clint Eastwood's western films, as well as Assange's own combat-beret look, with a soundtrack from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
"Julian's been in the embassy for two years and it's important that he doesn't slip into obscurity," says Westwood. "I want to highlight Julian Assange's plight. What happened to him is totally unfair."
Westwood, who was best known as an erotic photographer before following his mother's footsteps into fashion a few years ago, said he also has another garment with "a Julian Assange print".
Hollywood actor George Clooney and his new fiancee, Amal Alamuddin, who has worked on Assange's defence team, have been invited to attend.
Assange is yet to comment on this latest job offer, but he is no stranger to publicity even from his bolt-hole. Lady Gaga swung by the embassy to visit him in 2012, he opened a tour for rapper MIA via Skype and even appeared in a bizarre spoof video ahead of Australia's election last year.
The Mail notes, however, that Assange is not known for his fashion sense. Author Andrew O'Hagan, who was hired to write Assange's memoirs before the pair fell out, noted how the Wikileaks founder wore suit trousers over a pair of Tesco tracksuit bottoms.
Julian Assange's lawyers have called for evidence connected with the rape charges he faces in Sweden to be released as they attempt to break the legal deadlock in the case.
They have asked a Swedish court to order the prosecution to hand over a series of text messages written after Assange's arrest in Sweden four years ago.
"Messages sent by the two women plaintiffs were seen by defence lawyers in 2010, but copies of the messages were not issued to them," The Guardian reports. "Assange has claimed that text messages sent by one of his accusers show that she was ambiguous about his arrest and even opposed to it."
Assange's lawyers say the evidence should be made available after a recent change in Swedish law, which requires that defendants should "be made aware of 'facts forming the basis for the decision to arrest'."
"The messages strongly suggest that there is no basis for the arrest and they are thus vital so that he [Assange] can effectively tackle the arrest warrant," the lawyers declared in court. They also said the "severe limitations on Mr Assange's fundamental freedoms" had become "unreasonable and disproportionate".
According to Assange's affidavit, the alleged victim wrote that she "did not want to put any charges" against him but that "the police were keen on getting a grip on him".
Assange has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for two years in order to avoid extradition to Sweden. A lawyer for one of the alleged victims said earlier this year that her client "would wait as long as it takes to get justice in court".
Julian Assange: 'I fear for my family'
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that he fears for the safety of his family while he is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Assange, who faces extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault and rape, told reporters that he received threats against his children and their mother from "unspecified individuals".
He made the comments as Ecuador's foreign minister revealed that talks between his country and Britain had reached an "impasse".
Ricardo Patino flew to the UK after the two countries agreed to create a "working group" to resolved the dispute over Assange, who has spent the last two years residing at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The building is currently surrounded by police officers ready to detain him if he leaves the protection of the embassy.
Patino said yesterday that the working group "hasn't even formed", Reuters reports.
"There seems to be an impasse from a legal point of view", Patino said. "We could not agree on specific objectives for the group."
Assange repeated his claim that if he agreed to go to Sweden he would face a "serious risk" of being extradited to the United States to stand trial for the release of numerous classified documents onto his website.
"It would be foolish to relinquish my asylum in light of what happened to Chelsea Manning," he said, referring to the former US solider who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for passing documents to Wikileaks.