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Julian Assange 'Seriously Considering' Testifying Before Senate Panel

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking here in 2016, is reportedly considering testifying before U.S. lawmakers.
Kirsty Wigglesworth
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking here in 2016, is reportedly considering testifying before U.S. lawmakers.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is "seriously considering" a request to testify in person before the U.S. Senate intelligence committee about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a statement from his lawyer.

Assange has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012, in part over fears that he could be extradited to the U.S. and potentially face trial over leaking massive troves of documents.

On Wednesday, the WikiLeaks Twitter account posted a letter that it says was delivered to Assange via the U.S. Embassy in London. The purported document is signed by committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner and asks that Assange "make yourself available for a closed interview with bipartisan Committee staff at a mutually agreeable time and location" as part of the probe.

Spokespeople for Burr and Warner declined to comment on whether the document is authentic.

"We are seriously considering the offer but must ensure Mr Assange's protection is guaranteed," WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers said in a statement.

It's not clear when or where the interview might take place, or precisely what kind of guarantees Assange is seeking.

As NPR noted, WikiLeaks published nearly 20,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee prior to the election. Here's more:

"Those emails revealed that some senior DNC staffers had worked to promote the candidacy of Hillary Clinton over her opponent Bernie Sanders. Four DNC officials resigned in the aftermath, including its chair, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz."

The U.S. intelligence community "is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations," according to a statementon election security from the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Last month, the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials on charges related to interference in the election, including the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails.

In an interview with NPR in 2016, Assange described those emails as a "great journalistic scoop."

Assange no longer faces potential charges from Sweden — last year the country announced it was dropping its investigation into allegations of sex crimes, including rape. But as NPR has noted, there's an outstanding arrest warrant for him in the U.K. for "failing to surrender in court."

Ecuador confirmed that it granted him citizenship earlier this year to try to resolve the situation, according to the BBC. Still, tensions between Ecuador and Assange appear to be rising.

As NPR reported in March, Ecuador disconnected Assange's access to the Internet after it accused him of jeopardizing its relationships with other countries because of his posts on social media.

Ecuador's president, Lenin Moreno, is less friendly to Assange than was his predecessor. According to Reuters, last month he "confirmed that Ecuador and Britain were in talks to try to end his stay at the embassy."

Assange is also apparently in poor health, according to the doctors caring for him. In an article for The Guardian, they said "it is our professional opinion that his continued confinement is dangerous physically and mentally to him, and a clear infringement of his human right to healthcare."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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