|Julian Assange is on bail awaiting a UK court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden [Reuters]
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, plans to run for the Australian senate in elections next year, despite being under virtual house arrest in the UK and facing extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations, according to the whistleblowing website.
"We have discovered that it is possible for Julian Assange to run for the Australian Senate while detained. Julian has decided to run," Wikileaks said in a posting on the social networking site Twitter.
The senate is the upper house of the Australian parliament and is made up of 76 senators representing Australia's six states and two mainland territories.
The 40-year-old Australian citizen is on bail awaiting a British court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations.
He strongly denies the claims, saying they are politically motivated and linked to the activities of WikiLeaks, which has published thousands of confidential documents on the internet.
Assange has taken his legal battle all the way to the UK's Supreme Court, which is expected to rule on his case imminently.
Assange has criticised Australian prime minister Julia Gillard's Labor government for failing to stand up for him against the potential threat of his extradition to the US for prosecution over WikiLeaks' release of hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.
John Wanna, an Australian National University political scientist told the AP news agency, it was possible for Assange to run for a senate seat if he had remained on the Australian electoral roll despite living overseas for several years.
"If he gets on the roll, then he can stand as long as he's solvent and not in jail and not insane," said Wanna.
Any adult Australian citizen can run for the Australian parliament, but few succeed without the backing of a major political party. Only one of Australia's 76 current senators does not represent a party.
Being convicted of a crime punishable under Australian law to 12 months or more in prison can disqualify a person from sitting in the Australian parliament for the duration of the sentence, even if that sentence is suspended.
WikiLeaks said it would also field a candidate to run directly against Gillard in her lower house constituency of Lalor, in Victoria, in elections also due to be held in 2013.
Candidates cannot officially register as candidates until the election is called at least a month before the poll date.