‘Beacon for repressed’ France rejects Assange’s appeal for asylum

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has failed in a bid to win asylum in France.

In a letter to French President Francois Hollande published in the French newspaper Le Monde yesterday, Mr Assange appealed to France’s history as a beacon for the repressed.

He noted that WikiLeaks recently revealed that the US National Security Agency spied on Mr Hollande and his two predecessors.

Mr Hollande quickly said “no” to the request.

In a statement, his office noted that Mr Assange is under a European arrest warrant and his life is not in imminent danger.

The exchange came after prominent French voices, including ex-footballer Eric Cantona and economist Thomas Piketty, appealed for France to grant Mr Assange haven. He has taken refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex assaults.

Justice minister Christine Taubira suggested in a televised interview last week that she would be open to the idea, but Mr Hollande’s statement made it clear that will not happen.

“A deep examination found that given the judicial elements and the material situation of Mr Assange, France cannot follow through on his request,” the president said.

Mr Assange denies the allegations against him and believes extradition to Sweden would be the first step in efforts to send him for prosecution in the US.

He and his group angered the US government by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents.

In his letter to Mr Hollande, he said the mother of his youngest child is French.

He also said he is restricted to a space of 5.5 square metres, lacking access to “fresh air, sun... as well as any possibility to go to a hospital”, and noted that police say round-the-clock surveillance of him in the embassy has cost £11.1m.

In his letter, Mr Assange wrote: “By welcoming me, France would carry out a humanitarian and symbolic gesture, sending encouragement to every journalist and whistleblower.”