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article imageEcuador 'gravely concerned' about health of Assange

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By Anne Sewell     Oct 25, 2012 in World
London - Julian Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since June, was granted political asylum by Ecuador in August, but the UK will not grant him safe passage to leave the country. Now his health is suffering.
After losing his appeal against extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sex-related charges, Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking political asylum in that country. It was feared that should he be extradited to Sweden for questioning, he would then be sent on to the US on charges of espionage, over the release of sensitive diplomatic cables which have both angered and embarrassed the US government.
Despite the fact that Ecuador granted asylum to Assange in August, the UK will not grant him safe passage to travel out of the country. UK officials would arrest Assange should he step outside the door.
The Ecuadorian embassy in London is about the size of an apartment, and Assange has a small room to himself. His health is now suffering, possibly from confinement in such a small space.
A senior Ecuadorian diplomat says that Assange's health is deteriorating, and that he should be given safe passage out of the country's London embassy should it decline further.
Vice Foreign Minister, Marco Albuja Martinez told RT in an exclusive interview, “We have officially asked the UK for safe passage. But we are concerned that while UK authorities mull over the decision, Julian Assange’s health may break down completely.”
News.com.au reports Martinez as saying, “Assange has grown noticeably thinner and we are very concerned about his health,” Martinez said.
“If he falls ill we will have to choose between two alternatives – to treat Assange at the embassy or hospitalize him.”
The news service also reports that Ecuador has requested a document from the UK Government, guaranteeing his safe passage to hospital and back to the embassy without arrest; but that no reply has yet been received.
“We will not put pressure on them and will patiently await an answer,” Martinez said.
However, a statement from the UK Foreign office reads, "Ecuador have(sic) not told us that Mr Assange is ill. However, were they to do so, we would consider the matter."
While Martinez did not specify the medical problems involved, he did note that Assange had lost weight and said that denying him proper facilities for treatment would be “an issue of human rights.”
Recent photos of Assange show that the 41-year-old is looking pale and gaunt, as with the image above of his recent speech to the UN General Assembly, and he has complained of a "racking cough." He does, however, exercise daily with a personal trainer, who is an ex-Special Forces soldier and fellow-whistleblower.
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