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Susan Benn from the Julian Assange Defense Fund addressed the awaiting crowd and press outside the Ecuador embassy in London in a press release statement from Julian Assange on Friday June 29 at 16:00 BST. Wiki leaks founder Julian Assange has been under house arrest for 570 days now.
According to Miss Benn, Metropolitan Police served Mr Assange with a notice on Thursday, June 28, that he should surrender himself to the Belgravia Police Station by 11:30 on the morning of June 29. Assange has refused to abide by the serving notice of Metropolitan police.
Benn said that this is not a sign of disrespect to police, “under both international and domestic UK law asylum assessments take priority over extradition claims.” In the US and UK, asylum law states that a fugitive seeking political asylum cannot be extradited from the country he is seeking protection in while his application for asylum is being processed by official authorities. He can remain in the country indefinitely while he waits to hear about the status of his asylum claim and can only be removed once his claim and appeal have been rejected by authorities.
Assange applied for political asylum in UK in 2010, but on June 12, Britain’s Supreme Court made a decision to extradite him back to Sweden to face sex and rape charges. His appeal to reopen his extradition case was rejected by the court on June 14. After the court decision, Assange surprised many on June 19 by breaching his bail conditions and entering diplomatic territory of Ecuadorian embassy at Knights Bridge in London to seek political asylum under the UN Human Rights declaration.
There is a mounting pressure on Assange to face charges in Sweden. Earlier in the week, avid supporter and British socialite Jemima Khan urged him to face Swedish court. Australian Jemima Khan is among few names that contributed towards his hefty bail money of £240,000.
Estranged Australian Assange faces issues that are of serious nature and compromise his liberty and the safety of those involved in his wiki leaks stint operation. Assange is wanted by Swedish court over rape, sexual molestation, and coercion charges. Like in the UK and Assange’s homeland Australia, Sweden is also a signatory to US international extradition treaty. Under the treaty, Assange could face extradition from all these countries to face espionage charges in America.
According to Miss Benn, “the US department of justice admitted yesterday that its investigation into WikiLeaks proceeds. It is only a matter of time before US authorities begin extradition proceedings against Julian and other leading members of WikiLeaks on various charges including conspiracy to commit espionage.”
Assange fears that if sent to Sweden to face rape charges, he will be extradited to the U.S., where a grand jury investigation has been opened up against him. Once in the U.S., Assange could possibly face the death penalty over publishing leaked wiki cables in 2010.
Benn said “United States has subjected Julian Assange’s alleged source in this matter, the young soldier Bradley Manning, to conditions amounting to torture.”
Bradley Manning was arrested by the U.S. army in Iraq in May 2010. He is currently awaiting a trial that will begin in September 2012. After his arrest, Manning was placed in solitary confinement in military prison in Quantico, Virginia. Manning’s plight, inhuman treatment and torture have already been highlighted by several Human Rights organizations across the world. According to Amnesty International, “His conditions at Quantico have been a breach of international standards for humane treatment of an untried prisoner.” According to Wikileaks Stratfor emails that the U.S. has issued, a secret closed indictment compels British and Swedish governments to ship Assange to America.
Miss Benn elaborated, “So it is clear that there is a legal process in place which will result in taking Julian to the US, which if allowed to succeed would violate his basic rights.”
Benn said, “Julian will remain in the Embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while evidence for this application is being assembled and processed.”
There is ongoing protest outside Ecuadorian embassy by Assange’s supporters.