WikiLeaks co-founder and confirmed lefty hero Julian Assange maintained his innocence over sexual assault charges when he appeared by video-link before members of Cambridge University’s debating society.
Working media were banned from the event, with members of the 200-year-old union being balloted over the decision beforehand and the society’s women’s officer resigning in protest at the decision to proceed.
The Australian was speaking from the Ecuadorean Embassy basement, his home since 2013. Mr. Assange came to public prominence when he launched Wikileaks in 2006, a site which publishes confidential government and corporate documents from anonymous sources.
U.S. authorities want to question him over the release of secret and sensitive military files, which they say has endangered American lives around the world.
According to the Cambridge News, a packed audience heard Mr. Assange give the speech ‘The Challenges to Freedom of Speech in the West’ before he took questions from the floor.
When asked about the rape allegation he has faced in Sweden since 2010, he told members: “No woman has alleged rape against me. Formally I have already been cleared by the chief investigator of Stockholm.”
Asked why he had chosen to base himself in the Ecuadorean Embassy, given Ecuador’s human rights record, Mr. Assange said: “It was the first country with a democracy to step forward.”
He revealed nothing about his future plans, saying they would be dictated by a “political situation” which “depended on public support”.
Mr. Assange, who has been granted political asylum by Ecuador, is seeking to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faces the outstanding sex allegation, because he fears he will be sent to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks.
Earlier this year Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation into two allegations – one of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion – after running out of time to question him. The more serious charge of rape is still to be tested in court.