Julian Assange remains defiant in As it Happens interview with Carol Off

In a feature interview with Carol Off on CBC Radio’s As It Happens, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was alternately defiant and pensive, over questions ranging from allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden to his chances of getting a fair trial in the U.S. on possible espionage charges.

'I don't fear anything happening to me,' says WikiLeaks founder

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a UN report that argues he has been 'arbitrarily detained' by Britain and Sweden since December 2010. Assange spoke with Carol Off on CBC Radio's As it Happens this week. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

In a feature interview with Carol Off on CBC Radio's As It Happens, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was alternately defiant and pensive, over questions ranging from allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden to his chances of getting a fair trial in the U.S. on possible espionage charges.

"I don't fear anything happening to me," Assange said, when Off asked if he was worried about what might happen to him if he left the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been holed up for more than three years after being granted asylum there.

"I, of course, am advised by my lawyers from not taking any foolish risks which would prevent me from being able to work."

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared earlier in February that Assange had been unfairly detained at the embassy and recommended he be allowed to leave, as well as receive compensation for his time spent there.

Authorities in Britain and Sweden have rejected the finding, saying Assange has detained himself by seeking refuge in the embassy after allegations of his sexual misconduct in Sweden. They insist he will be arrested if he leaves.

On Feb. 5, 2016, Assange emerges to make a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, where he has been given asylum for more than three years. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Assange was accused of sexual misconduct and rape in 2010. Swedish police still want to question him for the latter. He has not been charged in either case and argued vehemently that he has been cleared of all allegations.

"This is a perverse situation," he said.

UN finding disputed by U.K., Sweden

The interview became heated when Off suggested that the UN group's findings were not legally binding.

"There's nothing binding from these UN recommendations…" Off began before Assange interjected.

"No, that's not true," he said. "The UN itself has come out on multiple occasions and said that it is binding.… So there is a declaration of illegality in relation to the U.K. and Sweden's obligations."

The panel cited the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by 168 states including Britain and Sweden, in declaring Assange's detention arbitrary.

"It is legally binding to the extent that it based on international human rights," Christophe Peschox of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights argued when the findings were released.

'Why not face the music?'

Assange had more to say about the potential of being extradited to the United States, where he could face espionage charges for his role in WikiLeaks' release of government documents.

The U.S. government has not revealed whether he has been indicted, since grand jury proceedings there are secret.

"I just want to know, why not go to the United States?" asked Off. "Why not face the music? Why not see what they've got against you and clear your name?"

An Assange supporter holds a banner outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

Assange has little faith in his chances if it comes to that.

"We know what they've done to my alleged co-conspirator Chelsea Manning," he said. "They've put her in prison and sentenced her to 35 years, and tortured her while she was there.… It's the same reason why Edward Snowden is unable to return. Because he would not be given a fair trial."

Manning was convicted in 2013, and sentenced to 35 years in prison, for leaking reams of war logs, diplomatic cables and battlefield video to WikiLeaks in 2010.

Snowden leaked thousands of documents in 2013, including extensive details about U.S. surveillance programs, and is currently in Russia, where he was granted asylum. He also faces espionage charges should he set foot on American soil.

With files from The Associated Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.