A senior Ecuadorian diplomat says the health of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is deteriorating, and wants the UK to give him safe passage out of the country's London embassy, where he is holed up, if it declines further.
“We have officially asked the UK for safe passage,” Vice Foreign Minister Marco Albuja Martinez told RT in an exclusive interview. “But we are concerned that while UK authorities mull over the decision, Julian Assange’s health may break down completely.”
The Australian whistleblower has been housebound in a small ambassadorial flat in Central London after fleeing while on bail in the UK in June. The moment he leaves the embassy's territory, Assange faces extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over accusations of rape and molestation. He is also reportedly wanted by American authorities for helping leak confidential diplomatic cables, and says Sweden could extradite him to America.
Martinez did not specify the medical issues plaguing Assange, but noted that he had lost weight. He said that denying him the proper facilities for treatment would be “an issue of human rights.”
Assange himself complained of a “racking cough,” and said that being under prolonged house arrest has left him demoralized as his health “slowly deteriorated.” Recent photos show that the 41-year-old has become increasingly pale and gaunt, though Assange also says that he exercises daily with a personal trainer, an ex-Special Forces soldier and fellow whistleblower.
The UK Foreign Office says it will consider Ecuador’s request if the need for medical care arises.
"Ecuador have not told us that Mr Assange is ill. However, were they to do so, we would consider the matter," it said in a statement.
Assange rose to fame as the administrator of WikiLeaks, a donation-funded website where whistleblowers could anonymously share data. His biggest scoop was placing over 250,000 private communiques between American diplomats in 2010. The cables are alleged by US officials to have originally been obtained by US soldier Bradley Manning, who is in custody awaiting trial.
The Australian national was arrested in the UK late 2010 after two Swedish women filed accusations of rape and molestation. He appealed against extradition, but fled bail once it became clear that deportation to Sweden was inevitable.
Ecuador granted him asylum in August.