Amidst headlines that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s media appearance on Monday was a ‘PR stunt’, officials have rejected his claim that he will leave the Ecuador embassy in London ‘soon’ due to Britain changing its extradition laws recently.
The changes include not extraditing a person who had not been charged with offence. In Assange’s case, he faces allegations of sexual assault on two women in Sweden, where authorities want him for questioning.
Under Swedish law, Assange has not yet been formally charged, and charges are framed in the country at a much later stage, unlike in other countries. His case is currently at the stage of preliminary investigation. British courts had previously cleared his extradition.
A Home Office spokesperson said the changes to extradition laws will not be applied retrospectively, which meant that Assange would be dealt with under the earlier provisions, as the law stood when Sweden issued the European Arrest Warrant in 2010, when there was no requirement of a charging decision before completing the extradition paperwork.
Since there has been no change in the legal position, Assange faces immediate arrest if he were to step outside the Ecuador embassy, where he took refuge in June 2012. He was granted asylum by Ecuador in August 2012.
Assange and his supporters fear that his extradition to Sweden could lead to his further extradition to the United States, where legal proceedings are awaiting him in relation to the release of classified documents on his whistle-blowing website.
Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he will not leave the Ecuador embassy until it was guaranteed that he will avoid extradition to the United States.
She said: "(He will leave) as soon as conditions can be negotiated that allow Julian to leave the embassy while his political asylum, to protect him from the risk of extradition to the US, is respected. And we haven't seen that happen yet."
Robinson added that there were "a complicated number of legal cases that are ongoing both in Sweden, and the ongoing grand jury investigation in the US which is reason for his asylum".