Ecuador seeks Julian Assange hospital assurances

Julian Assange Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Assange, who has been inside the Ecuadorean embassy since June, faces arrest if he leaves

Ecuador says it has sought assurances that Julian Assange would not be arrested if he was taken from its embassy in London to hospital, saying it is "very concerned" over his health.

It says the Wikileaks founder, who is fighting UK efforts to send him to Sweden, has "visibly lost weight".

Foreign minister Ricardo Patino said the Wikileaks founder's health "was beginning to be jeopardised".

The UK said it would not prevent "any medical care that he requires".

Mr Assange, 41, who was been staying at the embassy since June, was granted asylum by Ecuador in August.

He was arrested in the UK on an extradition warrant and is wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations, which he denies.

The Australian has breached bail conditions by staying at the embassy and faces arrest if he leaves.

Mr Patino said that, as well as asking for assurances over a possible hospital stay, he had requested a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague over health concerns.

"As a result of the government of Britain's not giving safe passage, Julian Assange's health most certainly is beginning to be jeopardised and this is very serious," Mr Patino said.

"We had hoped that the British government would defend and respect human rights and international law," he added.

In an interview with the Voice of Russia radio station on Wednesday, Ecuador's deputy foreign minister Marco Albuja Martinez said: "Assange has visibly lost weight and we are very concerned for his health.

"If he falls ill, we will have to choose between two alternatives - to treat Assange in the embassy or hospitalise him."

The UK Foreign Office said Mr Patino had "expressed interest" in meeting Mr Hague "and we are waiting for him to suggest suitable dates".

"We remain fully committed to seeking a diplomatic solution with the government of Ecuador, but we must ensure that our laws are respected and followed," a spokesperson said.

"The UK authorities would not prevent Mr Assange from receiving any medical care that he requires."

Mr Assange's Wikileaks website has published leaked sensitive diplomatic cables involving various countries, including the US.

In 2010, two women accused him of committing sexual offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture.

Mr Assange, who says the sex was consensual and that he regards the case as politically motivated, says he fears being passed on to authorities in the US if extradited to Sweden.

Swedish prosecutors have dismissed Mr Assange's claims their case is part of a wider political move to see him stand trial in the US over his work with Wikileaks.

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