Lawyer: ‘Assange could leave embassy this year’

Lawyer: 'Assange could leave embassy this year'
Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in London. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid a rape allegation in Sweden, could leave his refuge this year, the head of his legal team has said.

“We hope and we want and we believe that we will manage that,” lawyer Baltasar Garzon,a high-profile Spanish judge, told the AFP news agency on the sidelines of a conference on justice and war crimes in Guatemala.

He did not give details on why he thought Assange's departure from the embassy was forthcoming, or under what conditions an exit would occur.

Garzon added that he believed Assange's “right to asylum is being violated” by Britain's insistence on arresting the fugitive Australian to hand him over to Swedish authorities for questioning related to a 2010 rape allegation.

Baltasar Garzon outside Ecuador's embassy. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Assange, 44, has been living in the embassy since 2012. Ecuador has granted him political asylum.

He denies the rape accusation and says he fears Sweden would send him to the United States, where he is the target of a secret grand jury investigation linked to his website's divulging classified US military documents and diplomatic cables.

A UN panel this year concluded that Assange was being forced by Britain and Sweden to live in arbitrary detention in violation of his human rights. Both countries have rejected the claim.

Garzon said Assange's legal team was continuing to highlight the “situation of arbitrariness and deprivation of rights” suffered by their client as a result of him “defending the right of access to information”.