WikiLeaks' Assange may seek asylum in France: Lawyer

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain, on Jan 13, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (REUTERS) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is jailed in Britain fighting extradition to the United States for espionage and computer hacking, may seek asylum in France, his lawyer, Mr Eric Dupond-Moretti, said on Friday (Feb 21).

Mr Dupond-Moretti told Europe 1 radio that Assange's legal team would be in contact with French President Emmanuel Macron to make the case for Assange to get asylum in France. Assange has said that his youngest child and the child's mother are French.

Assange's lawyers noted the request for asylum was "not an ordinary demand" because Assange is not on French soil.

Mr Dupond-Moretti said the French asylum request would be based on humanitarian and health grounds, arguing that Assange was showing signs of "psychological torture".

"Article 53 of our Constitution also allows for France to give refuge to a man who is being threatened on reasons of his freedom of expression," he told Europe 1.

The 48-year old Assange, who spent seven years holed up in Ecuador's London embassy before he was dragged out last April, is wanted in the United States on 18 counts, including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades behind bars if convicted.

Assange is currently in jail in London, and Judge Vanessa Baraitser will hear arguments next week as to why he should or should not be sent to the United States.

Australia-born Assange made global headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.

An earlier request made in 2015 by Assange to get asylum in France was rejected.

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