I will be leaving embassy soon, claims fugitive Assange
Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, has disclosed he intends to leave the foreign embassy where he has claimed political asylum for more than two years.
In the first indication that the stand-off which has cost the British taxpayer pounds £7m may be drawing to a close, Mr Assange said he would "soon" leave the Ecuadorian embassy in west London where he has tried to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations.
At the press conference yesterday, Mr Assange thanked the British Government for making recent changes to extradition laws and suggested Parliament had changed the law because of the "abuses of my rights".
However, Mr Assange and his advisers appeared to have misunderstood the legislation and the Home Office quickly undermined his key claim by confirming the changes would not apply in his case because they are not retrospective.
However,Mr Assange claims that if he is extradited to Sweden, he will be sent on to the United States for questioning over Wikileaks' whistle-blowing.
He also claimed to be sick but declined say in what way. He says he should be "freed," yet he is a captive by choice.
He has been largely forgotten for two years, and an extradition hearing on the Iraq war materials - including an unforgettable video that showed a US helicopter crew dunning down Iraqis as though in a video game - would give him the best possible platform from which to promote his cause of transparency and free speech, certainly better than living in the embassy of Ecuador.
That country ranked 95th in the world in this year's World Press Freedom Index, compared to 10th for Sweden and 46th for the US
He would probably win such an appeal against extradition. Admittedly, the US Justice Department is still conducting the investigation into Assange, and the Pentagon has reportedly established a war room to help so we don't know what evidence they have assembled of any illegal hacking by Assange himself, or what the charges would be.
We do have an idea, though. If the charge is espionage (one possibility), it seems unlikely that a Swedish court would send Assange to face trial - it would be a stretch to persuade a court anywhere that Assange was acting as a spy, let alone in pro-transparency Sweden.
If the charge is one of co-conspiracy with Chelsea (formerly Private Bradley) Manning to leak classified materials to the detriment of US national security, the burden of proof that Assange was doing anything more criminal than journalists in Sweden and the U.S. do on a daily basis would be only a little less daunting. (© Independent News Service and agencies)