PARIS — Julian Assange's European defense team said Thursday it will try to seek asylum in France for the Wikileaks founder, whose full hearings for extradition to the United States on spying charges start next week in London.
French team member Eric Dupont-Moretti said Assange's case placed at stake "the fate and the status of all journalists."
He said the team considered the "the situation is sufficiently serious that our duty is to talk about it" with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Dupont-Moretti was one of a team of lawyers lined up at a Paris news conference to explain why they view the case against Assange as unfair, citing his poor health and alleged violations of his rights while in jail in London.
French members of the team said they have been working on a “concrete demand” for Macron to grant Assange asylum in France, where he has children and where Wikileaks was present at its founding.
“It is not an ordinary demand,” lawyer Antoine Vey said, noting that Assange is not on French soil.
Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish coordinator of Assange's team, reiterated his client's plan to claim that the Trump administration offered him a pardon. The alleged condition was that Assange must agree to say that Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 U.S. election campaign.
Garzon insisted that Assange was “pressured by the Trump administration” but resisted and “the order was given to demand the extradition of Julian Assange,” he said.
The White House has firmly denied the claim. However, Garzon said that both testimony and “documentary proof” of the claim will be offered to the court at the full hearing that opens Monday.
Assange, 48, spent seven years in Ecuador's London embassy before being evicted in April 2019. He was arrested by British police for jumping bail in 2012. In November, Sweden dropped a sex crimes investigation against him because so much time had elapsed.
Assange, who is Australian, has received backing from numerous quarters. The council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, added a voice of opposition Thursday, citing both concerns over Assange's eventual treatment in a U.S. prison and the impact on press freedoms were he to be extradited.
"I think this is one of the most important and significant political trials of this generation, in fact longer,’ senior Labour Party official John McDonnell McDonnell said in London.
The father of Assange, an Australian, insisted at the Paris news conference that his son was not a criminal.
“I can't for the life of me understand why he's still in prison,” said John Shipton.