Julian Assange case: France rejects 'asylum plea'

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An image grab taken from French TV channel TF1 shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking from the embassy of Ecuador in London during a televised interview with TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt, a suburb of Paris, on June 24, 2015.Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Assange took part in an interview with the French television channel TF1 in late June

France has rejected an apparent appeal by the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to grant him asylum.

Prosecutors in Sweden want to question Mr Assange over sex assault claims.

The 44-year-old Australian denies the allegations. He has been living at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012.

On Friday, France's Le Monde newspaper published an open letter Mr Assange had written to President Francois Hollande asking for asylum. However, his lawyers later said he had never sought it.

In the letter, Mr Assange wrote: "By welcoming me, France would carry out a humanitarian and symbolic gesture, sending encouragement to every journalist and whistleblower."

He also said his life was in danger.

A statement from Mr Hollande's office said it had reviewed the request and decided not to grant Mr Assange asylum.

"The situation of Mr Assange does not present any immediate danger," the statement said. "Furthermore, he is subject to a European arrest warrant."

Following the letter's publication, Wikileaks tweeted that Mr Assange "did not submit an asylum application to France. He published an open letter in Le Monde to Hollande and the public."

The legal team added that he was only responding to an invitation by French civil rights activists - backed by Justice Minister Christiane Taubira - to visit France.

Mr Assange - a journalist and activist - has not been formally charged, but prosecutors want to question him over allegations of rape and sexual misconduct made by two women he met during a trip to Sweden in August 2010.

He claims the allegations are part of a plot to extradite him to the US because of Wikileaks' publication of thousands of classified US documents earlier in 2010.

But the former computer hacker has not been charged with any crime in the US and the Americans have not issued the UK with an extradition request.

Ecuador offered Mr Assange asylum in August 2012, shortly after he sought refuge at the country's embassy in London.