WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is likely to remain at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has taken refuge as long as US authorities pursue a criminal investigation of his anti-secrecy group, one of his lawyers said.
Speculation rose that he might leave the embassy after Swedish authorities last week offered to question him there over allegations of sexual misconduct, dropping their insistence that he go to Stockholm for questioning about a 2010 incident.
He refused to return to Sweden, arguing that the Swedes would send him on to the United States to face possible trial. Assange, 43, denies the allegations, which are not related to WikiLeaks’ publication of US military and diplomatic documents five years ago.
Michael Ratner, a US lawyer who represents Assange and WikiLeaks, said if Assange left the embassy, where he has been holed up for just over 1,000 days, he was likely to be arrested by British authorities and risked being extradited to America.
“Even were the Swedish case to be disposed of, the UK would arrest Assange upon leaving the embassy for claimed violations of bail conditions or something similar,” said Ratner. “Washington would almost certainly seek his extradition,” he said.
Ratner said a recent federal court ruling disclosed that the FBI and US Justice Department were conducting a “multi-subject investigation” of WikiLeaks and he said it had been going on for “at least five years.”
Another legal source close to Assange said he would remain in the Ecuadorean Embassy until the US ended a grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks.
Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, said the investigation into WikiLeaks remained open. Other US law enforcement sources said criminal charges had not yet been filed against Assange.