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February 18, 2013

Report: Assange sees legal defense in politics

CANBERRA, Australia — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange regards his bid to become an Australian senator as a defense against potential criminal prosecution in the United States and Britain, a news website reported on Monday.

Assange spoke to The Conversation website at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he was granted asylum in June to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex crime allegations.

If he wins a Senate seat at elections on Sept. 24, Assange told the website that the U.S. Department of Justice would drop its espionage investigation rather than risk a diplomatic row.

The British government would follow suit, otherwise “the political costs of the current standoff will be higher still,”Assange told the website.

Assange supporters last week enrolled him to vote in Victoria state, a necessary step toward being nominated as a candidate.

Nominations for the Senate are likely to close on Aug. 22, and the six-year term of office would begin on July 1, 2014.

Australians living overseas can enroll to vote and consequently run as a Senate candidate if they left Australia within the past three years and intend to return within six years of their date of departure.

Assange said he was last in Australia in June 2010.

Assange plans to register a new political party, the WikiLeaks Party, to run Senate candidates in several Australian states. He told the website he was sure the party would attract the minimum 500 fee-paying members required to be registered.

WikiLeaks Australian Citizens Alliance spokeswoman Sam Castro said last week that if Assange was elected and was unable to take his Senate seat, another nominated WikiLeaks Party member would be chosen to fill the vacancy.

The party would run on a platform of transparency in government, she said.

Assange’s election campaign already has the endorsement of his parents.

His father, Sydney architect John Shipton, said he will be the chief executive of the newly-formed party.

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