Prez puts pres­sure on As­sange to leave em­bassy

Kingston Whig-Standard - - WORLD NEWS - GON­ZALO SOLANO and JOSHUA GOOD­MAN

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador’s Pres­i­dent Lenin More no has ramped up pres­sure on Ju­lian As­sange to leave his coun­try’s em­bassy in Lon­don, say­ing that Bri­tain had pro­vided suf­fi­cient guar­an­tees that the Wik­iLeaks founder won’t be ex­tra­dited to face the death penalty abroad.

Moreno’s com­ments in a ra­dio in­ter­view Thurs­day sug­gest that months of quiet diplo­macy be­tween the U.K. and Ecuador to re­solve As­sange’s sit­u­a­tion is bear­ing fruit at a time when ques­tions are swirling about the former Aus­tralian hacker’s le­gal fate in the U.S.

“The road is clear for Mr. As­sange to take the de­ci­sion to leave,” Moreno said, re­fer­ring to writ­ten as­sur­ances he said he had re­ceived from Bri­tain.

Moreno didn’t say he would force As­sange out, but said the ac­tivist’s le­gal team is con­sid­er­ing its next steps.

As­sange has been holed up in the Ecuado­rian em­bassy since 2012, when he was granted asy­lum while fac­ing al­le­ga­tions of sex crimes in Swe­den that he said were a guise to ex­tra­dite him to the U.S.

But his re­la­tions with his hosts have soured to the point that Moreno ear­lier this year cut off his ac­cess to the in­ter­net, pur­port­edly for vi­o­lat­ing the terms of his asy­lum by speak­ing out on po­lit­i­cal mat­ters.

As­sange in turn sued, say­ing his rights as an Ecuado­rian — he was granted cit­i­zen­ship last year as part of an ap­par­ent at­tempt to name him a diplo­mat and ferry him to Rus­sia — were be­ing vi­o­lated.

The mount­ing ten­sions have drawn Moreno closer to the po­si­tion of Bri­tain, which for years has said it is barred by law from ex­tra­dit­ing sus­pects to any ju­ris­dic­tion where they would face cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment.

But noth­ing is pre­vent­ing it from ex­tra­dit­ing him to the U.S. if pros­e­cu­tors there were to pledge not to seek the death penalty.

As­sange has long main­tained that he faces charges un­der seal in the U.S. for re­veal­ing highly sen­si­tive gov­ern­ment in­for­ma­tion on his web­site.

Those fears were height­ened when U.S. pros­e­cu­tors last month mis­tak­enly ref­er­enced crim­i­nal charges against him in an un­re­lated case.

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