France rejects asylum request from WikiLeaks' Assange

  • Paris, Hindustan Times, AFP
  • Updated: Jul 03, 2015 18:49 IST

The French government rejected an asylum request from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday, saying he did not face "immediate danger".

"France cannot act on his request," said the office of President Francois Hollande in a statement, after Assange wrote an open letter to the government requesting asylum.

"The situation of Mr Assange does not present an immediate danger. Furthermore, he is subject to a European arrest warrant," Hollande's office said.

In his letter to the president, published earlier Friday in Le Monde newspaper, Assange described himself as a "journalist pursued and threatened with death by the United States' authorities as a result of my professional activities".

"I have never been formally charged with an offence or a common crime, anywhere in the world, including Sweden and the UK," wrote the Australian activist, who turned 44 on Friday.

He also raised the issue of US spying on French leaders, which caused controversy last week when WikiLeaks released documents indicating that the United States had wiretapped Hollande and his two predecessors.

"The scale of the scandal and the reactions that followed our latest revelations confirmed the legitimacy of our approach," he wrote.

"These revelations were made at the risk of our lives."

Assange has spent over three years holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations by two women, one of rape and one of sexual assault, which he denies.

The former computer hacker fears extradition to Sweden could lead to him being transferred to the United States to face trial over WikiLeaks' publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents.

In his letter to Hollande, Assange said he had not seen his youngest child or the child's mother -- both French -- for five years.

"I have had to keep their existence secret up to today in order to protect them," he wrote.

He claimed last month that Swedish prosecutors had cancelled a long-awaited interview regarding his case.

Prosecutors had long insisted that he travel to Sweden for questioning but in March they agreed to go to London because some of the alleged offences will reach their statute of limitations in August.

But at the last minute, the interview was cancelled on the grounds that the prosecutors had not received permission from Ecuador to enter its embassy.

A criminal investigation is ongoing in the US into WikiLeaks' release in 2010 of 500,000 classified military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 250,000 diplomatic cables.

The main source of the leaks, US Army soldier Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for breaches of the Espionage Act.

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