WikiLeaks’ Assange seeks asylum in France; president says no

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PARIS (AP) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has failed in a bid to win asylum in France.

Assange wrote a letter to French President Francois Hollande published in Le Monde on Friday, appealing to France’s history as a beacon for the repressed. He noted that WikiLeaks recently revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on Hollande and his two predecessors and leading French companies.

Hollande quickly said “no.” In a statement, his office noted that Assange is under a European arrest warrant and his life is not in imminent danger.

The exchange came after prominent French voices, including soccer legend Eric Cantona and economist Thomas Piketty, appealed for France to grant haven to Assange and NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

French Justice Minister Christine Taubira suggested in a televised interview last week that she would be open to the idea.

But Hollande’s statement Friday made it clear that won’t happen. “A deep examination found that given the judicial elements and the material situation of Mr. Assange, France cannot follow through on his request,” he said.

Assange has spent three years in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sexual assaults. Assange denies the allegations and believes extradition to Sweden would be the first step in efforts to send him for prosecution in the U.S.

He and his group angered the U.S. government by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents.

In his letter to Hollande, he said that the mother of his youngest child is French. He said he is restricted to a space of 5.5 square meters, lacking access to “fresh air, sun … as well as any possibility to go to a hospital,” and noted that police say round-the-clock surveillance of him has cost 11.1 million pounds ($17.6 million).

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