WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange says he is considering requesting asylum in Switzerland and basing the whistleblowing website in the fiercely neutral Alpine country.
“That is a real possibility,” Assange said today when asked in an interview with Swiss TV station TSR about whether he and the website might relocate to Switzerland.
He said Switzerland, and perhaps Iceland, were the only Western countries that his outfit feels safe in.
Assange told the TSR television that Wikileaks is examining the possibility of creating a foundation that would allow it operate out of Switzerland, and confirmed he might apply for asylum.
“That is correct. We are examining whether I should apply for asylum,” said Assange in the interview, excerpts of which were available on the station’s website.
WikiLeaks, which last month published an unprecedented 400,000 classified US documents on the Iraq war and posted 77,000 secret US files on the Afghan conflict in July, has said its people have come under pressure and been harassed.
An Australian national, Assange was turned down last month for a Swedish residency and work permit. He was accused by two woman of rape and molestation days after filing the application in what he called a “set-up” by the website’s enemies.
In another development, Assange urged US authorities today to investigate possible rights abuses committed by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of pursuing those who have leaked information to his group.
He said the US hadn’t opened any probes into the alleged incidents detailed in secret documents published by WikiLeaks since the group began putting them online in July. Assange contrasted this with Britain and Denmark, whose governments he said had already taken some steps to examine possible wrongdoing from the leaked US war logs.
“It is time the United States opened up instead of covering up,” he told reporters near the UN’s European headquarters in Geneva, where tomorrow the US will face its first comprehensive human rights review by the global body.
A US Defence Department spokesman dismissed the suggestion that the leaking of the documents should prompt any further investigations into wrongdoing by American troops.
“They’re our internal reports,” said Major Chris Perrine. “The idea that we haven’t investigated any of these is false.”
In the five years from 2005 to June 2010, military criminal investigators had examined some 970 cases related to Afghanistan and Iraq. Eighty-eight of those resulted in “further disciplinary action,” said Major Perrine.
Assange said his group now devotes 70 per cent of its resources to defending itself from attacks against its collaborators and its financial infrastructure, which he said were “mostly by the US military and US intelligence.”
“We have never faced such difficulties as an organisation as in the past three months,” he said, flanked by two bodyguards.
Assange said future leaks would cover other countries, such as Russia and Lebanon, as well as the US