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WikiLeaks' Assange says ready for life in Ecuador

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June 22, 2012, 7:50 a.m. | World — by Reuters

Demonstrators protest outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, London, Thursday June 21, 2012. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange entered the embassy on June 19 in an attempt to gain political asylum.
© AP

CANBERRA - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on June 22 that he was ready for a life in Ecuador and said the country had been "quite supportive" of his bid for asylum.

Assange is holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London, where he has sought asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault charges, and he faces arrest by British police if he leaves the embassy.

In an telephone interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio from the embassy, Assange said he was concerned about being sent to the United States to face possible charges related to the WikiLeaks website, which published thousands of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010.

"The Ecuadorean people have been quite supportive. I heard (the) Ecuadorean Ambassador in Australia has been making supportive comments. They are sympathetic over a long period of time," he said.

"We hope the asylum application will be viewed favourably. Now it's is a matter of gathering extensive evidence of what is happening in the U.S. and submitting that with a formal request."

He said he had no indication of when Ecuador would decide on his asylum claim, and said his move was aimed at raising awareness of U.S. moves to prosecute him over the 2010 leaks.

Leftist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa reiterated on June 21 that his government plans to do a very thorough analysis of Assange's application before making a decision.

"We could not allow that a person who has asked for asylum may have to face the death penalty, especially for political crimes," Correa told reporters.

"We could not accept that there may not have been due process, we could not accept that there may be political prosecution against the ideas expressed by Assange," said Correa, as he listed the reasons why Ecuador may decide to grant asylum to Assange.

Assange fears that if sent to Sweden, he would then be extradited to the United States where he believes he could face criminal charges punishable by death.

He said he was not running away from questioning over sexual assault allegations in Sweden, but said the Swedish prosecutors had refused to visit him in Britain or contact him by phone.

"This issue is about a very serious matter in the United States," he said, adding Swedish authorities said he would be detained on arrival in Sweden.

Assange said his case was currently before a U.S. grand jury, which would decide whether charges could be laid. He said U.S. authorities have been careful not to confirm or deny any grand jury investigation.

"There are subpoenas everywhere. We have received subpoenas, there are subpoenas in my name," he said, adding people have been detained at U.S airports and been questioned by the FBI and asked to become informers.

Assange also hit out Australia for not taking stronger action to protect him, saying he had no consular contacts since December 2010 apart from telephone text messages.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said Assange has received more consular support than anyone in a similar position, while Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said Australia has regularly made representations about Assange to authorities in the U.S., Sweden and Britain.

"It is an effective declaration of abandonment," Assange said.

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