WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange could appeal to the International Court of Justice at The Hague if Britain continued to refuse him safe passage to Ecuador where he has been granted asylum, his lawyer Baltasar Garzon said on Friday arguing that London had a legal obligation to allow him to leave the country.
As the diplomatic stand-off continued with Foreign Secretary William Hague indicating that it could drag on for “some considerable time’’, there was speculation that as a last resort Ecuador could give Mr. Assange diplomatic status that would allow him leave its embassy in London without risking arrest.
He has been holed up at the embassy since seeking refuge there in June to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault.
WikiLeaks, meanwhile, announced that Mr. Assange would address his supporters “outside’’ the embassy on Sunday sparking rumours that he might be planning to court arrest in a public show of “going down fighting’’ while at the same time putting his hosts out of their misery.
In a statement, he hailed Ecuador as a “courageous, independent’’ country which stood up for him.
“It was not Britain or my home country Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American country,’’ he said.
Mr. Assange was said to be “bored’’ and “restive’’ having been stuck inside Ecuador’s cramped embassy in Knightsbridge for more than two months. He is allowed visitors and has access to television and computer but the pressure of being isolated from the outside world had started to tell, according to people who have met him.
His mother, Christine Assange, said she was “worried about his health, as I would be for anybody who is having to stay indoors and not get exercise and sunlight’’.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his government would “use the alternatives under international law to demand the safe passage” but did not elaborate.
“We don't think it is reasonable that, after a sovereign government has made the decision of granting political asylum, a citizen is forced to live in an embassy for a long period,” he said as Britain insisted that it was under legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden as he had exhausted all legal options.
Sweden accused Ecuador of wanting to “halt the Swedish judicial process’’. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sweden “emphatically reject the gross accusations that is made against the Swedish judicial system”.
The lawyer for the two Swedish women behind the allegations of sexual assault against Mr. Assange accused his supporters of overlooking their ordeal.