WikiLeaks founder says may seek Swiss asylum

GENEVA (Reuters) - The founder of WikiLeaks said on Thursday he may seek political asylum in Switzerland and move his whistle-blowing website there to operate in safety.

“I’m considering whether I should seek asylum,” Julian Assange, the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, told TSR, a Swiss television station. His words were dubbed into French.

Assange is in Geneva to speak at the United Nations on Friday, when the U.N. Human Rights Council conducts a review of the human rights record of the United States.

Last month Sweden rejected an application for a work and residency permit for Assange, who has angered the Pentagon by releasing nearly 500,000 classified files on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange had been hoping to establish a base in Sweden to take advantage of its strict laws protecting journalists. He has been under investigation there over rape allegations, which he has denied.

Assange told TSR the idea of setting up a foundation in neutral Switzerland to operate WikiLeaks was under serious consideration.

Earlier Assange called on the United States to fully examine abuses by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and halt its “aggressive investigation” into WikiLeaks.

Assange said WikiLeaks would release thousands of documents this year concerning not only the United States, but other countries including Russia and Lebanon.


Some of the secret U.S. documents released contained accounts of Iraqi forces torturing Iraqi prisoners and the failure of the U.S. military to investigate those instances.

“It is time the United States opened up instead of covering up,” Assange told a news conference in Geneva.

“The United States is in grave danger of losing its way,” said the Australian, who is moving from country to country to seek protection through their whistleblower laws.

The U.S. delegation has said it is open to fair criticism of its human rights record, including racial discrimination and counterterrorism policies, at Friday’s debate, where Muslim countries are expected to voice concern about detainee abuse.

U.S. officials have said the military had not systematically ignored cases of torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners by Iraqi forces.

The Obama administration has not announced any investigation into the abuses -- some of which occurred during its first year in office -- unlike Britain and Denmark, which have begun looking into their own troops’ behavior, according to Assange.

“The only investigation to my knowledge that has been announced by the United States is into us, into possible sources within the U.S. military,” Assange said.

The massive WikiLeaks disclosures of leaked documents have been the largest in U.S. military history.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Matthew Jones