WikiLeaks founder reportedly suffering from a chronic lung condition after spending months inside Ecuadorean embassy
Reuters in Quito
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 29 November 2012 06.11 GMT
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is suffering from a chronic lung ailment that could worsen at any time and is being checked regularly by doctors, Ecuador’s ambassador to Britain has said.
Assange, 41, has been holed up inside Ecuador’s embassy in London since June to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations. Assange has denied any wrongdoing.
“He has a chronic lung complaint that could get worse any time. The Ecuadorean state is covering Mr Assange’s medical costs and we have arranged for regular doctor visits to check on his health,” the ambassador, Ana Alban, told a local TV network during a visit to Quito.
British officials say Assange will be arrested if he sets foot outside the embassy. The building is under constant police surveillance.
Ecuador said last month it was worried about Assange’s health and asked Britain to guarantee him safe passage to hospital from the embassy if he needed medical treatment. That would allow him to return to the embassy after treatment with refugee status.
Assange took refuge in the embassy after running out of legal options to avoid being sent to Sweden. Ecuador granted him asylum in August and said it shared his fears that he could be sent from Sweden to the US to face charges over WikiLeaks’ activities.
US and European government sources say the US has issued no criminal charges against him, nor launched any attempts to extradite Assange.
Assange is said to be living a cramped life inside the modest diplomatic mission. He eats mostly takeaway food and uses a treadmill to burn off energy and a vitamin D lamp to make up for the lack of sunlight.
On Tuesday Assange accused “hard-right” US politicians of pressing European credit card firms to block more than $50m in donations to WikiLeaks, and said that had forced the website to reduce the volume of documents it posted online.
Speaking to reporters in the embassy’s conference room, Assange said his stay there had been “difficult in many ways” and that any resolution of the standoff would be “a matter of diplomacy”.
He refused to comment on his health or how long he may have to stay in the embassy, declaring those subjects “off-topic”.
In late August Assange said he expected to wait six months to a year for a deal that would allow him to leave the embassy.