France rejects asylum request from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: Presidency

Julian Assange speaking from the embassy of Ecuador in London during a televised interview with TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, a suburb of Paris, on June 24, 2015.
Julian Assange speaking from the embassy of Ecuador in London during a televised interview with TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, a suburb of Paris, on June 24, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP/REUTERS) - The French government rejected an aslyum request from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday, saying he did not face "immediate danger".

"France has received the letter from Mr Assange. An in-depth review shows that in view of the legal and material elements of Mr Assange's situation, France cannot grant his request," a statement by President Francois Hollande's office said.

"The situation of Mr Assange does not present an immediate danger. Furthermore, he is subject to a European arrest warrant."

Le Monde daily earlier published an open letter by Assange to Mr Hollande, saying his life was in danger.

In his letter to the President, published earlier on Friday in Le Monde, Assange described himself as a "journalist pursued and threatened with death by the United States' authorities as a result of my professional activities".

"I have never been formally charged with an offence or a common crime, anywhere in the world, including Sweden and the UK," wrote the Australian activist, who turned 44 on Friday.

He also raised the issue of US spying on French leaders, which caused controversy last week when WikiLeaks released documents indicating that the United States had wiretapped Mr Hollande and his two predecessors.

"The scale of the scandal and the reactions that followed our latest revelations confirmed the legitimacy of our approach," he wrote. "These revelations were made at the risk of our lives."

Assange has spent over three years holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations by two women, one of rape and one of sexual assault, which he denies.

The former computer hacker fears extradition to Sweden could lead to him being transferred to the United States to face trial over WikiLeaks' publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents.