Julian Assange on His First Year in the Ecuadorian Embassy, Prosecution Fears
A year after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to ask for asylum, he says that he wouldn't leave the embassy even if Sweden dropped its extradition bid over sexual assault accusations.
On the eve of the Wednesday anniversary of his asylum request, he told U.K. reporters that he believes the U.S. was already preparing to prosecute him on espionage charges.
Assange even suggested that a sealed indictment has been lodged by a grand jury in Virginia, which could allow Britain to arrest and extradite him to the U.S.
Assange said that he still believed that the six months to two years in the embassy that he had targeted could be a realistic timetable. "My case could be swiftly resolved if Sweden were to guarantee that I would not be extradited to the U.S. or if the British government would guarantee to veto any such extradition to the U.S.," he told a small group of news agencies, the Guardian reported.
But he continues to fear U.S. prosecution.
"The strong view of my U.S. lawyer is that there is already a sealed indictment, which means I would be arrested, unless the British government gave information or guarantees that would grant me safe passage," the WikiLeaks founder said.
Added Assange: "We know there is an ongoing investigation in the U.S. and we know I am a target of the federal grand jury. There is a 99.97 percent chance that I will be indicted. So if the Swedish government drops their request [for extradition to Sweden] tomorrow, I still cannot leave the embassy."
The foreign ministers of Ecuador and Britain met Monday to discuss the continuing diplomatic stalemate over Assange, but were unable to reach agreement. Ecuador granted him asylum last summer, arguing that Assange should be allowed to board a plane to the Latin American country unimpeded. But British authorities have said they would not let him leave given the Swedish extradition warrant.
Assange has in recent days said he was willing to stay inside the Ecuadorian embassy for another five years if necessary.
Asked if he regretted seeking asylum, Assange told reporters on Tuesday: "Strategically, it has been exactly what I hoped for."
He acknowledged the challenges of living and working in a small room though. "You can get rickets by not having any sunlight - it is not healthy to be in this position," he said.
Asked about reports that he has had chest problems over the past year, Assange said he was healthy and shrugged off the reports as "lung-gate."