Assange may seek asylum in Switzerland

Assange may seek asylum in Switzerland

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said that he may apply for asylum in Switzerland because US officials are mounting too much pressure on him, Press TV reported.

Assange claimed he and his group have come under increasing pressure since releasing hundreds of thousands of secret US military documents, leading him to contemplate seeking asylum, the Associated Press reported on Friday.

Assange told reporters he was "still looking into the process" of requesting asylum, but was considering the Alpine country because "the Swiss have a history of fierce independence."

In October, Sweden refused Assange's application for a residence permit. The 39-year-old Australian had sought to establish a base for WikiLeaks in Sweden to take advantage of its laws protecting whistle-blowers.

Prosecutors in the Scandinavian country are still investigating rape and sexual molestation allegations made against Assange by two Swedish women. Assange has vehemently denied the accusations.

Assange was speaking Friday at the United Nations in Geneva after participating in a meeting organized by the Iranian Elite Research Center, a UN accredited group based in Tehran.

During the meeting, Assange urged the authorities in the United States to investigate possible human rights abuses by US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, sources reported.

WikiLeaks has published almost 500,000 secret US documents about the wars in those countries, which some say provide evidence of human rights violations by US troops.

However, US State Department legal adviser Harold Koh dismissed Assange's call on Friday, saying information in the leaked files was already known to the authorities and hundreds of investigations into suspected abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq had taken place.

Assange, a veteran computer hacker, established WikiLeaks in 2006, obtaining secret documents, storing them outside the reach of governments, and then releasing them globally.

The releases by WikiLeaks have included 391,832 secret documents on the Iraq war and some 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan war.

Following the releases, Assange was denounced by governments, and some of his own colleagues, for releasing Afghan documents that contained the names of Afghan intelligence sources for NATO forces, thereby theoretically placing the sources' lives at risk.

US officials have said they are examining Assange's actions based on the 1917 Espionage Act and have demanded that he return all government documents that are in his possession.

They have also warned him not to publish additional documents which he may possess.

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