Update: video opinion added below.
The statement follows a visit by Benn with Assange, who is still trapped within the Ecuadorian embassy, after he chose not to present himself at the Belgravia police station on Friday morning, to begin extradition proceedings.
Benn told reporters that Assange was in good spirits and was grateful for the support of the people of Ecuador and so many others from around the world. Speaking of the summons to appear at the police station at 11:30 on Friday, she said that he was advised to decline to comply with this request.
Benn said, “This should not be considered as any sign of disrespect. Under both international and domestic U.K. law, asylum assessment takes priority over extradition claims.”
"The issues faced by Mr Assange are serious. His life and liberty and the life and liberty of his organization and those associated with it are at stake."
Referring to the fact that the U.K. authorities wish to begin the extradition of Assange to Sweden, over allegations of sexual abuse, and fears that once he arrives in Sweden, he will be extradited further to the U.S., Benn said, “The U.S. government has instigated a grand jury against Assange and other founders or managers of WikiLeaks. There is irrefutable evidence in the public record of a subpoena being issued and witnesses being compelled to testify against Mr. Assange.”
Benn said that the American Civil Liberties Union, WikiLeaks, the Center of Constitutional Rights and various other groups have been fighting the subpoenas in several U.S. courts. She states further that despite this, the FBI file on this investigation already exceeds 42,000 pages and credible reports reveal that a sealed indictment has already been made against Assange.
The U.S. wishes to pursue Assange because he and WikiLeaks revealed sensitive information about U.S. military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They also wish to pursue the matter of the many thousands of leaked diplomatic cables, which have put the U.S. in an uncomfortable position with its partners and allies worldwide.
Benn said that it was "only a matter of time" before U.S. authorities would begin extradition proceedings against him.
She said: "Mr Assange did not feel safe from U.S. extradition in the UK. We are all too aware of the abuses of the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty. Although Mr Assange has been trapped in the U.K. under dangerous circumstances, he has at least had the freedom to apply for political asylum.
"It is in this context that Julian has made the difficult decision to seek refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy to ask for asylum. Julian will remain in the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while evidence for his application is being assembled and processed."
Quoting media reports, Benn says that informal talks between the U.S. and Sweden have already been held. She further states that the U.K. court accepts that Assange has not been charged with any crime in Sweden and that Swedish authorities could interrogate him on British soil.
“Although it is a normal procedure, Swedish authorities have refused without reason to make a three-hour trip to London and to interview Julian, causing him to be trapped in the U.K. under virtual house arrest for 561 days and an additional 10 days in solitary confinement, all without charge,” Benn said.
“Julian will remain in the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government while evidence for his application is being assembled and processed,” she added.
Her full press statement can be heard in the video above.
In the meantime, the police are unable to arrest Assange while he is in the Ecuadorian embassy, and Ecuador is still deciding on whether to accept his request for political asylum in that country.
Benn said that more information can be found at http://justice4assange.com.