Julian Assange hopes case can be resolved as embassy stay nears five-year mark

Julian Assange is hopeful the impasse over his case can be resolved after a "huge" year for WikiLeaks.

Speaking ahead of the fifth anniversary of his arrival at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Mr Assange thanked the "amazing" supporters who have helped him cope with living inside the building for so long.

He has been granted political asylum by the Ecuador government, won the backing of a United Nations panel and seen the Swedish authorities suddenly drop a seven-year investigation into sex-related allegations against him.

He has maintained, however, the "road is far from over", adding it was "extremely regretful" he was still being threatened with arrest if he leaves the embassy.

Mr Assange will make a "special announcement" from the balcony of the embassy on Monday - five years to the day since his arrival.

He will have been detained without charge for 2,386 days - nearly seven years - either in prison, under house arrest or at the embassy, which had a permanent police guard around the building for the first few years.

WikiLeaks says the US government under Donald Trump had intensified its efforts to extradite Mr Assange over its publications on surveillance and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Speaking to the Press Association, he said there were reasons to be hopeful.

"We have support across many parts of the political spectrum in the United States, including most of the mainstream media.

"Within Europe there is a growing recognition that extraditing me or any of our staff to Trump's America is not a way to win votes.

"The US has had a Grand Jury against me and other WikiLeaks staff since 2010."

Mr Assange points to a number of developments in the past few months, including the release from prison of Chelsea Manning and the decision by Sweden's prosecution authority.

He said the UK Government had consistently refused to confirm or deny it had received an extradition request from the US.

"The excuse that Theresa May's government is using to continue this ridiculous impasse is to claim that seeking asylum is a crime, which is false. It is a legal right we all have.

"What appears to be going on is that the UK has a holding position to arrest me until it works out what the US wants it to do.

"If the US extradition case proceeds, I am unlikely to get bail and so will spend the next decade in prison in the UK fighting it.

"If I end up in the United States, the charges on the warrants improperly include Espionage Act offences which the US government has been using in the last few years to go after whistle-blowers and us.

"The maximum sentence is death or life imprisonment."

Mr Assange said his supporters had been "amazing", with vigils being held outside the embassy throughout the last five years.

Asked how he has coped with the mental strain of the last five years, he replied: "I am lucky, intellectually, that I have a very demanding and exciting role, to find and reveal the most suppressed information in the world."

He added that WikiLeaks had enjoyed a "huge" year, including releasing emails about Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, seeing an appeal by the UK Government over the UN Working Group ruling defeated, publishing an ongoing series about the activities of the CIA as well as documents and emails relating to activities in Germany and Turkey.

A presidential election in Ecuador in February saw victory for Lenin Moreno over Guillermo Lasso, who said during his campaign that he would give Mr Assange notice to leave the embassy.

Looking ahead, Mr Assange added: "I cannot imagine that anyone sensible in the British government wants to have a protracted battle to extradite me to Trump's America."

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