WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Monday called for diplomatic guarantees he will not be pursued by the United States for publishing secret documents if he goes to Sweden to face criminal allegations.
The Australian, 40, said he is prepared to go to Sweden to face questioning over sex assault claims, but fears Stockholm will turn him over to the US where he could face espionage and conspiracy charges over revelations by WikiLeaks.
“Ultimately it may be a matter of what guarantees the United Kingdom, the United States and Sweden are willing to provide,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald from the Ecuador embassy in London, where he is seeking asylum.
Assange believes Washington will pursue him after WikiLeaks published a cache of sensitive documents, including about the Afghan and Iraq wars, and thousands of diplomatic cables which have embarrassed governments worldwide.
“For example, if the US were to guarantee (it would) drop the grand jury investigation and any further investigation of WikiLeaks publishing activity, that would be an important guarantee … diplomatic commitments do have some weight,” he said.
Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuador embassy for nearly a week to avoid extradition to Sweden, again criticised Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard over Canberra’s handling of his case.
The former computer hacker said his situation was “a serious political matter… (that) the Australian government should treat with the seriousness it requires”.
“I have been attacked by the US, from the vice president down, as a high-tech terrorist, and by the Swedish prime minister and foreign minister — surely that requires some direct response from the Gillard government.”
Assange has said he chose Ecuador’s embassy instead of his home country’s because he felt Canberra had done nothing to protect him, a charge the government has denied.
Canberra has said it has limited capacity to help him because he is not in Australia and has not broken any Australian laws.
Australia has also dismissed the idea that Washington is keen to get Assange, with Foreign Minister Bob Carr saying Sunday there was “no hint” of a plan to extradite him to the United States.