WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hints at running for UK parliament at election
WikiLeaks head Julian Assange has hinted he may run for the UK parliament in June's snap election.
However, his time in parliament could be shortlived if Swedish prosecutors decide to press charges against him on a rape allegation.
On Twitter on Wednesday, he asked his followers what they thought of the idea of his running, adding "the government has detained me without charge for seven years". His followers strongly approved.
Should I run in the UK general election? The government has detained me without charge for seven years:https://t.co/0VmWWBCxfC— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) April 19, 2017
British MPs are not obliged to attend parliament in person. However if elected Assange would be unable to cast a vote unless he could somehow make it to Westminster without being arrested.
Assange is holed up in London's Ecuador embassy, where he sought asylum in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations.
By seeking asylum he has breached one of his bail conditions and is now subject to arrest under the UK's Bail Act, police have said.
Last year a United Nations panel ruled he was in "arbitrary detention" against international law – a non-binding decision that the British and Swedish governments rejected.
The fine print of the UK's electoral laws does not immediately disqualify him from standing for election, despite his current life in legal limbo.
As a citizen of a Commonwealth country – Australia – Assange is eligible.
He would have to pay a £500 (NZ$850) deposit, refundable if he wins five per cent of the vote, and get the signatures of 10 people in his electorate.
The UK's 1981 Representation of the People Act disqualifies anyone from being a member of the House of Commons if they are ordered to be imprisoned or detained for more than a year after being found guilty of an offence (in any country) – or if they are "unlawfully at large" when they would otherwise be so detained.
Assange has not been convicted of any offence, though there is an outstanding European arrest warrant against him.
A Swedish court has ordered his detention in absentia, judging he was suspected on probable cause of rape, and there was a continuing risk he would flee or evade a trial.
Prosecutors last year interviewed Assange at the embassy, and are now considering his answers before deciding whether to push forward with their case.
According to Fair Trials International, Swedish law requires Assange to be physically present on Swedish territory before charges can be laid.
However chapter 45 of Sweden's judicial code sets out how a trial might take place without Assange if "after service of the summons upon the defendant, he has fled or remains in hiding in such a manner that he cannot be brought to the main hearing" and if "the matter can be satisfactorily investigated".
Assange also believes the United States wants to charge him with espionage or other serious crimes over his role in the Chelsea Manning leak of classified files to WikiLeaks.
Assange ran for election to the Australian Senate in 2013, as a candidate for the WikiLeaks Party in Victoria.
He won 41,926 votes, or 1.24 per cent of the total cast in the state. It was more than double the votes of Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir, whose cannier preference deals won him a Senate seat.
However, Assange did not win as many votes as the Sex Party, Palmer United or Family First.
WikiLeaks won 88,092 votes nationally, or 0.66 per cent of the vote, coming in just behind the Help End Marijuana Prohibition and the Animal Justice parties, but ahead of Fred Nile's Christian Democrats, One Nation and the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts.
- Sydney Morning Herald