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Rights group seeks asylum for Assange in France

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FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain January 13, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

A French rights group urged the government Thursday to offer political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, addressing an appeal to his former lawyer, Eric Dupond-Moretti, now Justice Minister.

Assange, held in a London prison, is wanted by Washington over the 2010 release of hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents on the Iraq and Afghan wars, revealing civilian deaths as well as torture and clandestine military operations.

In February, before his appointment to Emmanuel Macron’s government, Dupond-Moretti had urged the French president to give Assange asylum in france.

In an open letter to the freshly-minted justice minister, rights group Robin des Lois requested a meeting with Dupond-Moretti in a bid to revive the asylum discussion.

The proposal “will be examined,” a justice ministry spokesperson told AFP but stressed that asylum decisions do not fall in the minister’s purview.

A hearing will take place in London on September 7 to examine an extradition request by the US Justice Department, which seeks to put Assange on trial for leaking the documents.

He risks a jail sentence of 175 years.

As Assange’s lawyer, Dupond-Moretti had said this would be “a disgraceful and unbearable sentence.”

Assange made an informal request for French asylum in 2015, but it was rejected by then-president Francois Hollande.

At the time, the WikiLeaks founder was living in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he had sought refuge to avoid separate legal proceedings in Sweden.

Assange was removed from the embassy in April 2019, having lived there for seven years.


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