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5 Sep, 2023 22:28

France rejects Assange asylum request

The jailed WikiLeaks publisher would need to be on French territory first, a court has said
France rejects Assange asylum request

A Paris court on Tuesday rejected a motion to grant asylum to Julian Assange, submitted earlier this year by the Robin des Lois association on behalf of the jailed journalist.

French law requires “the presence of the individual applicant on the national territory or of the European Union” in order to file an asylum application, and the circumstances of Assange’s imprisonment “do not allow an exception” to the rule, said the court in the commune of Creteil.

Robin des Lois had requested that France allow Assange’s asylum application from the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been held since 2019. The nonprofit argued that asylum rules were contrary to several international conventions and the preamble to the French constitution.

Emmanuel Ludot, who represented Robin des Lois, told AFP that the association does not plan to appeal. He urged French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, who previously worked as Assange’s lawyer, to “at last take the matter into his own hands.”

Assange, 52, has been behind bars since April 2019, when Ecuador revoked his asylum – reportedly at the request of the US – and turned him over to the British police. The WikiLeaks publisher had sought sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012, arguing the US was preparing to have him arrested on a manufactured pretext. 

Following his arrest, the US government unsealed an indictment charging him with Espionage Act violations, over the 2010 publication of classified military and State Department documents. The UK has since approved his extradition to the US, which is still pending appeal. If extradited and convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years behind bars.

Last month, the US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, hinted at the possibility of a plea agreement, which could see Assange – a native of Australia – agreeing to plead guilty to lesser charges in return for being permitted to return home to serve any remaining prison time. 

Assange has insisted that he violated no laws, American or otherwise, and that his publication of the documents provided by a US military whistleblower was legitimate journalism protected by the US Constitution.