Assange used embassy as spy center, Ecuador's president says

  16 April 2019    Read: 1075
Assange used embassy as spy center, Ecuador

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange repeatedly violated his asylum conditions and tried to use the Ecuadorian embassy in London as a centre for spying, Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

London police dragged Assange out of the embassy on Thursday after his seven-year asylum was revoked, paving the way for his extradition to the United States for one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information.

Assange's relationship with his hosts collapsed after Ecuador accused him of leaking information about Moreno's personal life.

Moreno denied to the Guardian that he had acted as a reprisal for the way in which documents about his family had been leaked. He said he regretted that Assange had used the embassy to interfere in other country's democracies.

"Any attempt to destabilize is a reprehensible act for Ecuador, because we are a sovereign nation and respectful of the politics of each country," Moreno told the Guardian by email.

"It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadoran embassy in London to interfere in processes of other states," said Moreno, who was elected in 2017.

"We cannot allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a center for spying," Moreno said.

"Our decision is not arbitrary but is based on international law," he said.

Earlier Sunday, Assange's lawyer said his client would cooperate with Swedish authorities if they reopen a rape case against him but would continue to resist any bid to extradite him to the United States.

"We are absolutely happy to answer those queries if and when they come up," Jennifer Robinson told Sky News television about the rape claims.

"The key issue at the moment is U.S. extradition, which we have warned about for many years," she added.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. The first expired in 2015 and the other was dropped in 2017, but the alleged rape victim has now asked for the case to be reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, the British government will have to decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.


Robinson said Assange would seek assurances from Sweden that he would not be sent on to America, saying: "That is the same assurance we were seeking in 2010 and the refusal to give that is why he sought asylum."

She added: "He's not above the law. Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or indeed Swedish justice. This case is and has always been about his concern about being sent to face American injustice."

The U.S. indictment charges Assange with "conspiracy," alleging that he worked with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

He faces up to five years in jail.

Also Sunday, WikiLeaks said Australian Consul Clare West would visit the Ecuadoran embassy on Monday to request that the mission hand over Assange's belongings.

West met with Assange in prison on Friday.

Two left-wing German lawmakers, Heike Hansel and Sevim Dagdelen, along with Spanish MEP Ana Miranda were expected in London on Monday when they were originally set to meet Assange at the embassy.


Instead, they will hold a news conference outside the Belmarsh prison where Assange is being held, the German party Die Linke and WikiLeaks said.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems intended to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

But Robinson insisted: "This indictment clearly engages newsgathering activities and the kinds of communications that journalists have with sources all the time."

The lawyer condemned as "outrageous" claims made by Ecuador about Assange's behavior in the embassy, including that he smeared his feces on the wall, saying: "That's not true."

In the Guardian interview, Moreno charged that Assange "mistreated our officials (and) started to make legal threats even against who was helping him."

Assange's father, John Shipton, on Sunday urged Australia to bring his son home.


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