- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2018

Julian Assange met with diplomats from his native Australia on Thursday as the WikiLeaks publisher approaches his sixth year in self-exile at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

Mr. Assange was visited at the embassy by two officials from Australia’s High Commission, the nation’s diplomatic mission in the U.K., marking what is believed to be the first time Australian officials have met with the WikiLeaks chief since he sought asylum there in June 2012, the U.K.’s Press Association first reported Thursday.

Jennifer Robinson, a member of Mr. Assange’s legal team, confirmed the meeting to The Washington Times.

Julian Assange is in a very serious situation,” Ms. Robinson said in a statement. “He remains in the embassy because of the risk of extradition to the U.S. That risk is undeniable after numerous statements by Trump administration officials including the director of the CIA and the U.S. attorney-general.”

“Given the delicate diplomatic situation we cannot comment further at this time,” she said.

The Australian High Commission referred The Washington Times to the nation’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade when reached for comment.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to Mr. Assange through the Australian High Commission in London,” a department spokesperson told The Times. “Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment.”

Mr. Assange, 46, was born in Townsville, Queensland in 1971, and he wound up abroad during the course of his work with WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy group he helped launch in 2006.

He became the subject of a rape investigation following a trip to Stockholm in 2010, and he subsequently sought asylum from Ecuador in lieu of surrendering to Swedish authorities, citing the likelihood he’d be extradited to the U.S. and punished for releasing classified diplomatic and military documents through the WikiLeaks website.

Ecuador granted asylum to Mr. Assange in 2012, and Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape probe in 2017. British police have said they will arrest him if he exits the embassy, however, relegating him to its confines rather than risking apprehension and possible extradition.

The Department of Justice began investigating Mr. Assange during the Obama administration after WikiLeaks began publishing classified State and Defense Department documents. Federal prosecutors have failed so far to unseal any charges against Mr. Assange, but members of President Trump’s administration including Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director-turned-secretary of state, and Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s attorney general, have advocated prosecuting the WikiLeaks publisher.

Ecuador has since granted citizenship to Mr. Assange, Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa revealed in January, calling the status “one more ring of protection.”

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