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 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 the U.S. Justice Department would drop its espionage investigation rather than risk a diplomatic row.
Assange told the website that the British government would follow suit, otherwise "the political costs of the current standoff will be higher still."
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.
"The party stands for what Julian espouses — transparency and accountability in government and, of course, human rights," he added.
Assange's mother Christine Assange said public support indicated he would be elected.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm in people for a change," she said.
Assange told the website the Swedish allegations against him were "falling apart" and police should drop the case.
The Justice Department has been investigating WikiLeaks since the secret-busting website began distributing hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents. But few details of that investigation have been made public.
Assange's supporters suggest the Swedish case is being pursued as an avenue to extradite him to the United States, though the Swedish government denies it.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.