Assange's lawyers plan to request asylum in France for WikiLeaks founder

Julian Assange's defense team in Europe holds news conference  Paris, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020.
Julian Assange's defense team in Europe holds news conference Paris, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Copyright AP Photo/Francois Mori
Copyright AP Photo/Francois Mori
By AP with Euronews
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Julian Assange's lawyers say they plan to ask President Emmanuel Macron to grant their client asylum in France.


Julian Assange's European defence team said Thursday it will try to seek asylum in France for the WikiLeaks founder. 

French team member Eric Dupont-Moretti said Assange's case placed at stake "the fate and the status of all journalists."

"We consider the situation is sufficiently serious that our duty is to talk about it with French President Emmanuel Macron," the lawyer said

He was one of a team of lawyers lined up at a Paris news conference to explain why they view the case against Assange as unfair, citing his poor health and alleged violations of his rights while in jail in London.

Assange's full hearings for extradition to the United States on spying charges start next week in the British capital.

'Not an ordinary demand'

French members of the team said they have been working on a ''concrete demand'' for Macron to grant Assange asylum in France, where he has children and where Wikileaks was present at its founding.

''It is not an ordinary demand,'' lawyer Antoine Vey said, noting that Assange is not on French soil.

Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish coordinator of Assange's team, reiterated his client's plan to claim that the Trump administration offered him a pardon. The alleged condition was that Assange must agree to say that Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 US election campaign.

Garzon insisted that Assange was ''pressured by the Trump administration'' but resisted and the ''order was given to demand the extradition of Julian Assange,'' he said.

The White House has firmly denied the claim. However, Garzon said that both testimony and ''documentary proof'' of the claim will be offered to the court at the full hearing that opens Monday.

Assange, 48, spent seven years in Ecuador's London embassy before being evicted in April 2019. He was arrested by British police for jumping bail in 2012. In November, Sweden dropped a sex crimes investigation against him because so much time had elapsed.

'Impact on press freedom'

Assange, who is Australian, has received backing from numerous quarters. The council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, added a voice of opposition Thursday, citing both concerns over Assange's eventual treatment in a US prison and the impact on press freedoms were he to be extradited.

I think this is one of the most important and significant political trials of this generation, in fact longer, senior Labour Party official John McDonnell McDonnell said in London.

The father of Assange, an Australian, insisted at the Paris news conference that his son was not a criminal.

''I can't for the life of me understand why he's still in prison,'' said John Shipton.

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