Ecuador says it’s time for As­sange to fi­nally leave em­bassy

The Day - - WORLD & NATION - By CHRISTINA BOYLE and CHRIS MEGE­RIAN

Lon­don — Ecuador’s pres­i­dent said Thurs­day that the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has given writ­ten as­sur­ances that Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange would not be ex­tra­dited to face the death penalty abroad if he leaves his Lon­don em­bassy hide­out, where he’s been holed up for more than six years.

In the clear­est sign yet that the Aus­tralian ac­tivist might even­tu­ally face the U.S. jus­tice sys­tem, Pres­i­dent Lenin Moreno said he was ea­ger to bring an end to As­sange’s long res­i­dency in­side his coun­try’s em­bassy, and had been work­ing with Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties to make that hap­pen.

“I am not happy with As­sange’s pres­ence in the Ecuadorean em­bassy. ... It seems to us six years is too much,” Moreno said in a ra­dio in­ter­view from in­side his pres­i­den­tial palace in Quito, the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

A “path has been made” for his de­par­ture, Moreno said, stop­ping short of say­ing his gov­ern­ment would be open to forcibly eject­ing As­sange if he re­fuses to leave on his own.

As­sange has been liv­ing in Lon­don’s Ecuado­rian em­bassy since June 2012, when he knocked on the door of the build­ing in the up­mar­ket Knights­bridge neigh­bor­hood and claimed po­lit­i­cal asy­lum. At the time, he was fac­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of rap­ing two women in Swe­den and had lost his fight against ex­tra­di­tion just days ear­lier.

The charges have since been dropped by Swedish au­thor­i­ties, but As­sange has re­fused to step out­side his em­bassy con­fines for fear of be­ing de­tained. Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties could ar­rest him for break­ing his bail con­di­tions, though he would be un­likely to spend more than a year in prison.

As­sange’s chief con­cern is that once in cus­tody, he could be ex­tra­dited to the U.S. to face charges for his or­ga­ni­za­tion’s role in the re­lease of clas­si­fied gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments.

Al­though the U.S. has never pub­licly ac­knowl­edged that it has charged As­sange, Moreno’s com­ments come three weeks after fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors in Vir­ginia ac­ci­den­tally re­vealed, in court doc­u­ments from an un­re­lated case, that he is fac­ing crim­i­nal charges that were filed un­der seal.

It’s un­clear what charges have been filed, but U.S. of­fi­cials have con­sid­ered fil­ing charges since he first be­gan re­leas­ing reams of clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion through Wik­iLeaks.

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