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Ecuador worried by Assange health, seeks UK safe passage promise

Feb. 1, 2012 file photo, Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, arrives at the Supreme Court in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

MOSCOW: Ecuador is worried about the health of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and has asked Britain to guarantee him safe passage from its London embassy to a hospital if he needs medical treatment, a senior Ecuadorean diplomat said in Moscow.

"Assange has grown noticeably thinner, and we are very concerned about his health," Voice of Russia radio quoted Vice Foreign Minister Marco Albuja Martinez as saying in comments confirmed by the Ecuadorean embassy in Moscow.

"If he falls ill we will have to choose between two alternatives: to treat Assange in the embassy or hospitalise him," Albuja Martinez said on Tuesday. "This is a very serious situation and it can affect Assange's human rights."

Britain's Foreign Office said it had no immediate comment on the remarks.

Assange, whose whistleblowing website angered the United States by releasing thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, was arrested in December 2010 on an extradition warrant from Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women.

He denies wrongdoing and says he fears that if he is extradited to Sweden he could be transferred to the United States where he could face criminal charges punishable by death.

The 41-year-old Australian broke the conditions of his bail when he entered the Ecuadorean embassy in London in June shortly after running out of legal options to avoid being sent to Sweden. He was later granted diplomatic asylum by Ecuador, remains at the embassy and would risk arrest if he leaves.

Ecuador has asked the British Foreign Office for a document that would enable Assange to enter hospital safely if necessary and return to the embassy with refugee status, the Voice of Russia quoted Albuja Martinez as saying.

"Britain has not yet given assent to this request, but is considering its decision," he said.

Ecuador was pleased that Britain "did not reject it outright", he was quoted as saying of the request. "We will not put pressure on them and will patiently await an answer, so that Assange can receive medical treatment if necessary."

 

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