Assange mom says WikiLeaks founder suffering
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — The mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Monday after meeting with Ecuador's foreign minister that she's worried about her son's health after nearly seven weeks' confinement at the South American nation's London embassy.
"He is under a lot of stress and it's been long-term stress now for nearly two years and in conditions which are similar to detention," Christine Assange told The Associated Press.
Her son took refuge in the embassy on June 19, requesting political asylum after exhausting all legal appeals to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about sexual misconduct allegations.
Julian Assange, who angered U.S. officials by publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents, calls the accusations trumped up and says he fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States for trial.
Ecuadorean officials have said they will not announce a decision on the asylum request until after the London Olympic Games end in mid-August.
Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his country is doing "everything possible to protect the life of Mr. Assange."
"For that reason we are engaged in conversation with the Swedish and government and also with Great Britain before speaking to the United States," he added.
Ecuadorean officials are seeking assurances that Sweden and Britain would not allow Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported last week, citing unnamed officials at the country's London embassy.
Patino did not confirm that but echoed the concern expressed by Assange's mother that the WikiLeaks founder would be mistreated if sent to the United States.
"We have received very sensitive information about torture that Australian citizens have received at the (U.S.) Guantanamo base, American citizens, too, and of a possible trial that a grand jury in Virginia is preparing against Julian Assange," he told reporters after meeting with her.
The reference was to terror suspects that the U.S. has kept at Guantanamo and unconfirmed claims by Julian Assange's supporters that U.S. officials plan to indict him, as occurred with U.S. serviceman Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks.
Patino said Ecuador's ambassador in Sweden is requesting that Swedish prosecutors visit Julian Assange in the London embassy and question him there.
Christine Assange was asked by the AP if Ecuador would grant asylum to her son if it is unable to secure guarantees from Sweden and Britain that he will not be extradited to the United States.
"I don't know," she said in an interview.
She said she speaks to her son about every 10 days, and they don't much discuss his day-to-day life.
"We are also aware that our phones are being monitored and do not wish to talk about personal matters," she said,.
Christine Assange said her son doesn't get any natural sun light so she is arranging "for thinks like a sunlamp."
She said he has a treadmill to run on for exercise, and friends "turn the music on and encourage him to dance with them."
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Lima, Peru