Assange sees a legal defense in politics: report

AP, CANBERRA

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 - Page 6

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange regards his bid to become an Australian senator as a defense against potential criminal prosecution in the US and Britain, a news Web site reported yesterday.

Assange spoke to The Conversation Web site at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he was granted asylum in June last year to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.

If he wins a Senate seat at elections on Sept. 24, Assange told the Web site that the US Department of Justice would drop its espionage investigation, rather than risk a diplomatic row.

The British government would follow suit, otherwise “the political costs of the current standoff will be higher still,” Assange said.

Assange supporters last week enrolled him to vote in Victoria State, a necessary step toward being nominated as a candidate.

Nominations for the Senate are likely to close on Aug. 22, and the six-year term of office would begin on July 1 next year.

Australians living overseas can enroll to vote and consequently run as a Senate candidate if they left Australia within the past three years and intend to return within six years of their date of departure.

Assange said he was last in Australia in June 2010.

Assange plans to register a new political party, the WikiLeaks Party, to run Senate candidates in several Australian states. He told the Web site he was sure the party would attract the minimum 500 fee-paying members required to be registered.