Saturday 22 October 2016

Wikileaks Julian Assange refused safe passage for MRI scan

Julian Assange will be arrested if he leaves Ecuador embassy in London for medical tests, says Foreign Office

Published 15/10/2015 | 11:00

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been refused "safe passage" to undergo medical tests by the Foreign Office.

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The government of Ecuador made the request on behalf of Mr Assange who is seeking to undergo a MRI scan on his shoulder.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks from the balcony of Ecuador's embassy
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks from the balcony of Ecuador's embassy

He faces arrest if he leaves the embassy of Ecuador in London where he fled three years ago.

His stay has so far cost the British taxpayer more than £11.1 million.

Ecuador, which granted Mr Assange political asylum, said the safe passage it was seeking would be for a few hours to allow him to have medical tests.

 Mr Assange is seeking to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he faces sexual allegations, which he denies.

He fears that if he goes to Sweden he will be taken to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks.

His US lawyer Carey Shenkman said: "By claiming that Mr Assange must give up his asylum in order to receive medical treatment, the UK government is forcing him to choose between the human right to asylum and the human right to medical treatment.

"No one should ever have to face that choice. Sweden and the United Kingdom have the responsibility to ensure that Mr Assange's basic rights are respected. They should agree without further delay to permit Mr Assange's safe passage to a hospital on humanitarian grounds."

In a press conference, Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino read out a letter from Mr Assange's UK doctor who conducted a medical examination in August.

 The letter says he is in constant and severe pain, which is growing worse and has been present since June this year.

The doctor said that an MRI scan needs to be performed which can only be carried out in a hospital.

 The letter states: "He has been suffering with a constant pain to the right shoulder region for the past three months [since June 2015]. There is no history of acute injury to the area. I examined him and all movements of his shoulder (abduction, internal rotation and external rotation) are limited due to pain.

"I am unable to elicit the exact cause of his symptoms without the benefit of further diagnostic tests, [including] MRI."

The source of the medical condition can only be diagnosed with hospital equipment that cannot be brought into the embassy due to its size and weight.

Ecuador wrote to the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office on September 30 to request that Mr Assange be permitted to go to hospital.

Officers have been stationed outside the embassy building in Knightsbridge, west London, round the clock for the past three years after a warrant for Mr Assange’s arrest was issued when he failed to surrender for extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual assault.

On Monday Scotland Yard announced it had been decided that the deployment was no longer “proportionate”.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August 2012, but as soon as he sets foot outside the building Britain will deport him to Sweden to face the sexual allegations which were made against him in 2010.

Mr Assange, 44, was alleged to have raped a woman known as SW, then aged 26, and committed other sexual offences against AA, a 31-year-old woman.

The lesser sexual allegations have now lapsed because of the Swedish statute of limitations, or the maximum time within which criminal charges must be brought, but the rape allegation could see charges brought as late as 2020.

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