- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2019

Julian Assange’s lawyers will ask the Australian government to petition British authorities to let him leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to receive medical care without risking arrest, an attorney for the WikiLeaks publisher said Friday.

Greg Barns, a lawyer and adviser for the Australian-born transparency activist, said Mr. Assange’s legal team plans to appeal on his behalf for help from Marise Payne, a senator in the nation’s Parliament and its minister for foreign affairs, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“His health is deteriorating yet he cannot get medical care for fear of arrest. We will be asking Senator Payne to seek undertakings from [the] U.K. that [Mr. Assange] can leave the embassy for health care without being arrested,” said Mr. Barns, the newspaper reported.

Representatives for neither Ms. Payne nor the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Office immediately returned requests for comment.

Mr. Assange, 47, entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012, nearly two years after the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating his WikiLeaks website over its publication of classified diplomatic and military documents and other material.

He subsequently received both political asylum and citizenship from Ecuador, providing separate layers of protection against any criminal charges brought from abroad. He has refused to voluntarily leave the embassy, however, citing an arrest warrant upheld by British authorities and the likelihood of being extradited to the U.S. as a result of exiting.

Nearly seven years since seeking asylum, Mr. Assange was recently visited by diplomats from his native Australia for only the second time since entering the embassy, Mr. Barns told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“They have seen firsthand the untenable situation Julian is in,” Mr. Barns told the newspaper.

The Australian High Commission in London refused to comment on or confirm if the diplomats visited Mr. Assange and referred questions to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra, the newspaper reported.

Inquiries sent by The Washington Times to foreign affairs officials were not immediately answered.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance to Mr. Assange through the Australian High Commission in London,” a spokesperson for the department told The Times after Mr. Assange was reportedly visited by Australian diplomats for the first time last year.

“Owing to our privacy obligations, we will not provide further comment,” they said at the time.

Lawyers for Mr. Assange have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact his living situation has had on his health, and a group of doctors who examined him said last year that continued confinement would be “dangerous physically and mentally to him.” The British judge who upheld the warrant for his arrest found otherwise, however, ruling: “Mr. Assange is fortunately in relatively good physical health.”

“Mr. Assange’s health problems could be much worse,” Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot wrote in her February 2018 ruling.

The Justice Department has refused to acknowledge whether Mr. Assange faces federal charges or risks extradition. Multiple news outlets have reported that prosecutors have filed a sealed indictment against Mr. Assange, but a federal court judge ruled earlier this week against forcing prosecutors to disclose details about their presumed case.

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