By David Batty/ The Guardian –
WikiLeaks founder uses Australian radio interview to highlight US attempts to draw up charges against him
The WikiLeaks founder, who has sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he did not know when a decision on his asylum request would be made.
His comments came as one of his most prominent supporters, Jemima Khan, said she would like to see him confront the rape allegations made against him by two Swedish women.
Khan, who faces losing the £20,000 she put towards his bail, said on Twitter that the two women “have a right to a response”.
But Assange said his asylum bid had highlighted what he insists are attempts by the US government to draw up charges against him for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents via WikiLeaks.
“The department of justice in the United States has been playing a little game, and that little game is that they refuse to confirm or deny the existence of a grand jury,” Assange said in a phone interview with ABC radio. “We are hoping what I am doing now will draw attention to the underlying issues.”
A Virginia grand jury is studying evidence that might link Assange to US soldier Bradley Manning, who has been charged with aiding the enemy by passing the secret files to WikiLeaks and is awaiting trial.
No action has yet been taken against Assange and the Australian government has said there is no indication an indictment is pending.
Assange agreed but said a case was being built against him, claiming there was now a 48,135 page FBI file on him and WikiLeaks.
“Of course not, at the moment the matter is before the grand jury,” he said. “Until it comes out of the grand jury there will not be such evidence afforded.”
Explaining the reasoning behind his asylum bid, Assange said: “We had heard that the Ecuadoreans were sympathetic in relation to my struggles and the struggles of [WikiLeaks] with the United States.
Ecuador’s embassy has said a decision on the case was expected soon.WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said “it could take hours, it could take days” before a decision was made. Assange would stay at the embassy until the matter was settled, she added. “I assume that if asylum is not granted, he will leave.”
Per Samuelson, one of the WikiLeaks founder’s two Swedish lawyers, said Assange was camping out “in an office that has been prepared with overnight sleeping facilities.”
“I don’t get the feeling that they [embassy staff] are in a hurry to get rid of him. He’s welcome there,” he added.
Britain’s supreme court last month upheld a high court ruling from last year that Assange could be extradited to Sweden, where he faces accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm while on a visit to give a lecture in August 2010.
Assange says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.