Ecuador spent £3.7m to pro­tect Wik­iLeaks’ As­sange

The Mercury - - NEWS -

LON­DON: Ecuador spent more than £3.7 mil­lion (R62m) pro­tect­ing and sup­port­ing Ju­lian As­sange af­ter he took refuge at its Lon­don em­bassy, se­cret files have re­vealed.

A top-level in­tel­li­gence oper­a­tion was es­tab­lished to mon­i­tor the ac­tiv­i­ties of Scot­land Yard, vis­i­tors and As­sange.

Un­der­cover pri­vate se­cu­rity staff recorded in minute de­tail the move­ments of po­lice of­fi­cers guard­ing the Knights­bridge build­ing, doc­u­ments dis­closed. And they listed de­tails of vis­i­tors in­clud­ing ex-UK In­de­pen­dence Party leader Nigel Farage, ac­tress Pamela An­der­son, ac­tivists, lawyers and jour­nal­ists. In­ves­ti­ga­tors al­legedly dis­cov­ered the Wik­iLeaks founder hacked into the em­bassy’s com­puter net­work and set up his own satel­lite link.

As­sange, 46, claimed asy­lum in 2012 af­ter los­ing a le­gal bat­tle to bar his ex­tra­di­tion to Swe­den, where he faced claims of rape and sex­ual as­sault.

The out­spo­ken Aus­tralian has re­mained in the build­ing ever since, mak­ing his home in cramped quar­ters with the aid of a run­ning ma­chine and sun lamp.

Ecuador even con­sid­ered ap­point­ing As­sange to the UN in a des­per­ate bid to get him out, the files said. Of­fi­cials be­lieved the move would give him diplo­matic im­mu­nity and en­able him to es­cape with­out ar­rest.

The spy oper­a­tion was re­vealed in doc­u­ments from Ecuador’s in­tel­li­gence agency Se­nain, ob­tained by The Guardian. Over five years, the South Amer­i­can coun­try put at least £3.7m into a se­cret in­tel­li­gence bud­get to pro­tect As­sange and keep him un­der sur­veil­lance. In­ves­ti­ga­tors hired a £2 800-a-month flat around the cor­ner as a com­mand post. The oper­a­tion was ap­proved by the then Ecuado­rian pres­i­dent Rafael Cor­rea, it was claimed. But the Lon­don-based am­bas­sador only found out about it when he re­ceived a coun­cil tax de­mand for the se­cret flat.

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice spent more than £12m guard­ing the em­bassy around the clock un­til 2015, when of­fi­cers were pulled out.

Al­though he no longer faces a live ex­tra­di­tion war­rant, he is wanted for breach­ing bail. As­sange fears he could be sent to the US and ac­cused of trea­son if held. – Daily Mail


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