WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced early on Monday that he will leave the Ecuadorian Embassy “soon.” That doesn’t mean he’s planning on turning himself into authorities, however.
“He is ready to leave at any moment as soon as the ridiculous siege outside will stop and he is offered safe passage,” a WikiLeaks spokesman, Kristinn Hrafnsson said, according to The Guardian. “His bag is packed.”
While his health is reportedly a problem, Assange said his departure was “perhaps not for the reasons the Murdoch press are saying at the moment.”
The move, if it happens, could end a two-year impasse with British authorities who want to extradite Assange to Sweden, but it’s unclear how or when his departure will occur. Assange and the Ecuadorian foreign minister who was present at the news conference did not elaborate on details, though the minister said he hoped to discuss the case with British officials and added that Ecuadorian embassy would continue to offer Assange protection.
Britain, for its part, stressed that they weren’t changing their minds on the situation.
“We are clear that our laws must be followed and Mr. Assange should be extradited to Sweden. As ever we look to Ecuador to help bring this difficult, and costly, situation to an end,” a spokesman for Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office told NBC News in London. The British police have stationed guards outside the embassy 24/7 for the past two years, costing at least $10 million, according to The New York Times.
Sweden has requested Assange’s deportation so he can face allegations of sexual assault there, after two women accused him of rape. Assange and his lawyers deny those charges, noting that he hasn’t been indicted yet, and say the proceedings are all a coordinated effort to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States to face prosecution for his work exposing countless classified government documents.
The U.S., however, has not publicly indicted Assange or requested his extradition.