WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he will not leave the sanctuary of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London even if Sweden stops pursuing sexual assault claims against him because he fears arrest on the order of the United States.
Wednesday (June 19) marks the one year anniversary of Assange's entry into the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. In an interview to mark the milestone, Assange said he remained hopeful he might be able to leave but offered little evidence to suggest he would be finding new living quarters anytime soon.
"I wouldn't say I wouldn't leave," he said. "(But) my lawyers have advised me I shouldn't leave the embassy because of the risk of arrest in relation to the risk of arrest and extradition to the United States."
When asked whether he would remain inside even if Sweden dropped the investigation against him, Assange said: "That's correct."
Assange chose his words carefully in the interview, which was conducted last Friday under embargo. In a wide-ranging discussion behind drawn white net curtains, Assange hailed Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency who made revelations about U.S. surveillance programs, as a hero.
He also railed against the United States, Britain and his native Australia and talked about his case with semi-legal expertise.
Ecuador has granted Assange political asylum, but Britain has made it clear he will be arrested if he tries to leave the building, which is heavily guarded by police.
Assange said he initially thought he might be holed up in the embassy, a diplomatic facility in one of London's most fashionable areas, for up to two years. His original timetable was still a fair estimate, he told his interviewers.
When asked whether he was worried the situation could drag on much longer, he conceded it was a possibility.