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Julian Assange: Why Is He Leaving Embassy?

Monday 18th August 2014

Julian Assange is about to leave the Ecuadorian embassy after two years.

Julian Assange

Why has been been holed up in the first-floor flat and why is he leaving now? Here's everything you need to know.

The latest from the Ecuadorian embassy
LBC's Tom Swarbrick reports: "The cost of policing the Ecuadorian embassy has reached almost 7m now, effectively waiting for him to leave so they can arrest him.

"Normally down here, it's a fairly sedentary affair, but not today. More police are arriving on motorbikes, along with the arrival of the world's press on the pavement opposite.

"His press conference was long, confusing and partly inaudible - the press conference of a man who has been locked in a single room for the last two years.

"He has confirmed he will leave the embassy 'soon', although he doesn't say when or why."

Why is Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy?
Mr Assange has claimed asylum from Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex assault claims.

He cannot leave the building to see health specialists as he would be arrested by the police, who have guarded the embassy for all 790 days he has been in the first-floor flat in Kensington. If he steps foot on British soil, he would be arrested.

His fear is that if he goes to Sweden to answer those sexual assault claims - which he denies - he will be the victim of extraordinary rendition to the US, where he believes he will be tried for the leaks which Wikileaks have produced.

julian assange embassy

Why is Julian Assange leaving the Ecuadorian embassy?
Mr Assange's main reason for leaving the embassy is believed to be his increasingly bad health. He is said to have a heart condition, a chronic lung complaint, bad eyesight, high blood-pressure, all as a result of two years in the Ecuadorian embassy.

GP Malcolm Kendrick told LBC that sunshine is crucial for health, saying: "It's increasingly clear that a lack of sunshine and vitamin D can have some quite severe consequences to health.

"If he's not been out for two years and has not been taking supplements, he will be suffering from a vitamin D deficiency.

"It's not a difficult treatment, as vitamin D can be taken as an oral supplement. Without more information, it's difficult to know whether his health issues are related to a lack of vitamin D."

Julian Assange - The Legal Position
Criminal & Human Rights Lawyer Simon McKay says he has no doubt Mr Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy. He said: "If he steps out of the embassy, I would expect the police to arrest him and then question him in custody, awaiting extradition to Sweden over the sexual assault charges.

"The reason the British police haven't gone into the embassy, which in principal they have been entitled to do, is for diplomatic reasons. He himself is not entitled to diplomatic immunity - he's not a diplomat."

Supporters of the Wikileaks founder have suggested that he should be given a free passage to the nearest clinic, but Mr McKay said that was not possible. He said: "As soon as he steps out of the embassy, the only thing that is preventing him from being arrested would dissipate.

"I'm quite sure the British authorities would take that opportunity to arrest him, probably in a fairly dignified way. I'm sure he would be treated, but I'm almost certain they would place him in custody.

"The extradition process would then be engaged and there would have to be an official request, if there hasn't been one already."