WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has applied for political asylum in France after a minister indicated that it might be viewed favourably. The Elysee Palace promptly rejected the request with a polite ‘non’.
In an open letter to French President Francois Hollande published today by Le Monde, the fugitive alleges he is a victim of persecution by the US government over what he claims is the exposure of US human rights violations and controversial practices. According to the RT news service, Assange’s plea said:
For the simple fact of publishing information meriting public interest that whistleblowers had passed to WikiLeaks, I am personally prosecuted for espionage, conspiracy, theft or compromise of confidential US government information and computer violations, risking life imprisonment or worse”.
Assange added that Ecuador had probably saved his life by giving him sanctuary inside its embassy in London, thus protecting from extradition to Sweden. The activist has lived inside the embassy since June 2012.
“France has received the letter from Mr. Assange. An in-depth review shows that in view of the legal and material elements of Mr Assange’s situation, France cannot grant his request,” a statement by President Francois Hollande‘s office said.
“The situation of Mr. Assange does not present any immediate danger. He is also the target of a European arrest mandate,” it noted.
Last week it was reported by The Sydney Morning Herald that French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira “wouldn’t be surprised” if France decided to offer asylum to both WikiLeaks fugitives Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. She stressed it wasn’t her decision, but that of the French Prime Minister and President.
Mr Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is wanted for questioning about sexual assault allegations that were raised by two Swedish women in August 2010. The Australian denies the allegations and his lawyers have advised that he is at risk of extradition to the US from both Sweden and Britain if he leaves his diplomatic safe haven.
His colleague Ed Snowden, a former U.S. government contractor, has remained in Russia since exposing widespread federal surveillance programs.
Mr Snowden is subject to a US arrest warrant for espionage charges, including “unauthorised communication of national defence information” and “wilful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person.”