WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has denied claims that he filed a request for political asylum in France.
Assange’s legal defence team have published a statement in response to the French President Francois Hollande who supposedly misinterpreted Assange’s open letter as a request for asylum.
“Contrary to what has been assumed by various media as well as the [initial] statements of the French Presidency, Baltasar Garzon, director of Julian Assange’s legal team, clarifies in the clearest terms that Julian Assange has not submitted an asylum request to the French Republic.
His letter was a response to the declarations of Christiane Taubira, Minister of Justice, and to an open letter from French civil society, signed by over forty major public figures, calling for him to be protected by France.
My client has stated that, if the competent French authorities decided to give him protection, he would receive this offer positively. No part of the letter that was sent to the President of the Republic of France can be interpreted in any different way.
The legal defense team of Mr. Assange questions the “exhaustive analysis that the French Presidency has made of the letter in less than an hour, and the reasons that brought them to pronounce themselves in such a hurry.”
Last week, French newspaper Le Monde published a letter written by Assange to French President Francois Hollande titled “Mr Hollande, Welcome me in France”.
“I am a journalist who has been pursued and threatened with death by the US authorities because of my professional activities,” Assange wrote, according to European news site, The Local.
“I have never been formally charged with an offence or a common crime, anywhere in the world, including Sweden and the UK.
“By welcoming me, it would be a humanitarian gesture by France.”
Assange added that “only France finds itself in a position to offer me the necessary protection against… the political persecutions I face”.
“France cannot act on his request,” President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement in a response to the letter.
“The situation of Mr Assange does not present an immediate danger. Furthermore, he is subject to a European arrest warrant.”
However, Garzon says Assange had only expressed his willingness “to be hosted in France if and only if an initiative was taken by the competent authorities”.
“Julian Assange has not made any request for asylum in France,” said Assange’s legal defence team director Baltasar Garzon, in a statement on WikiLeaks Twitter feed.
The Australian activist and hacker who turned 44 on Friday has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden since 2012.
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