Assange Fears Assassination in U.S. Prison

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepares to speak to reporters on the grounds of Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, England, Dec. 17, 2010. AFP/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange prepares to speak to reporters on the grounds of Ellingham Hall in Norfolk, England, Dec. 17, 2010.
AFP/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange believes he could withstand solitary confinement in a U.S. prison if the American government manages to extradite him, but he fears he would likely be killed "Jack Ruby-style" if held with others inside the U.S.

Assange told Britain's Guardian newspaper in an interview at the English mansion where he's under house arrest that the final determination as to whether he can be sent from the U.K. to Sweden or the United States would be made by British Prime Minister David Cameron, but that believed it would be "politically impossible" for Cameron to okay the move.

"Legally the U.K. has the right to not extradite for political crimes," Assange told the Guardian. "Espionage is the classic case of political crimes. It is at the discretion of the U.K. government as to whether to apply to that exception."

The U.S. government has not filed any charges against Assange, but Attorney General Eric Holder has said "there's a predicate for us to believe that crimes have been committed here and we are in the process of investigating those crimes."

It's been suggested, not least by Assange himself, that the U.S. government is trying to find a way to name the WikiLeaks founder as a co-conspirator in a case against the Army private suspected of providing the classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks.

U.N. Checking on WikiLeaks Suspect's Treatment

"Solitary confinement is very difficult," Assange said, reflecting on the nine days he's already spent in a London prison on a Swedish warrant for questioning in a sexual misconduct case brought by two women in that country.

"But I know that provided there is some opportunity for correspondence I can withstand it. I'm mentally robust," he added, reflecting on the possibility that he could find himself in the same situation again if extradited to the U.S. "Of course it would mean the end of my life in the conventional sense."

If he was to be held in a general prison population in the U.S., however, Assange speculated there was a "high chance" he'd be killed extra-judicially by a third party actor he likened to Jack Ruby, the man who killed alleged JFK shooter Lee Harvey Oswald two days after he was arrested.

Assange claimed the legal fees incurred by WikiLeaks had already tallied up to about $770,000 -- more than the organization was able to pay from its present finances. He said the decision by several large U.S. financial companies (reportedly under political pressure from U.S. lawmakers) to halt payments to WikiLeaks had deprived his group of its $655,000 "war chest".

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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