Hundreds sign petition to give Julian Assange asylum in New Zealand

Julian Assange has been in hiding for six years. Credit: Video - Newshub; Image - Reuters

More than 1300 people have signed a petition asking the Government to give WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum in New Zealand.

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, fearing he would be extradited to the US if he was forced to answer questions from Swedish authorities investigating rape complaints against him.

The charges were dropped last year, but Assange remains in the embassy - UK police have said they still plan to arrest him, since he breached his bail by hiding the embassy.

Motueka man Greg Rzesniowiecki thinks Assange is right to fear extradition, and is calling on the New Zealand Government to provide him "with permanent political asylum in New Zealand, including a guarantee of safe passage from the United Kingdom to New Zealand".

Mr Rzesniowiecki says in addition to the online signatories, he and supporters have collected a few more hundred in person.

"The petition is ultimately directed at open government and transparency - currently government is a swamp next to a sea of lies and fake news," he wrote on his blog.

"WikiLeaks is one of the democracy's sensors, providing vital information as to the civilisation brain or ordering system - our governments.

"Where our governments attack Wikileaks they attack the democracy. Where they attack the democracy they attack us."

Julian Assange. Photo credit: File

The petition was due to close earlier this week, but his group - Free Assange NZ - "lacked an MP of conviction to sponsor asylum for Assange". The new deadline is August 7, to "allow everyone concerned [to] find courage".

Ecuador is believed to be preparing to evict Assange. President Lenin Moreno, who took power last year, is not a fan of the 47-year-old Australian.

If he is evicted, supporters here plan to hold vigils and rallies outside the US embassy and the Beehive, both in Wellington.

Mr Rzesniowiecki made headlines in 2016 after spending nearly two years on the road, protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

The US has investigated Assange and WikiLeaks over their release of classified documents and alleged ties to Russia, but have laid no formal charges against either.

US President Donald Trump is at odds with his own law enforcement agencies, saying he's a fan - likely because the group's actions in the 2016 were very damaging to his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

CIA director Mike Pompeo on the other hand says it's a "non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia".

An MP has to be willing to present the petition to Parliament before it can be looked at by a select committee. MPs can refuse to present them.

Newshub has contacted Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway for comment.


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