Tuesday 20 August 2019

Ecuador denies decision made to expel WikiLeaks founder from London embassy

WikiLeaks says it was told Julian Assange would be expelled within “hours to days”.

A billboard van outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (John Stillwell/PA)
A billboard van outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (John Stillwell/PA)

By Gonzalo Solano and Joshua Goodman, Associated Press

A senior Ecuadorian official said no decision had been made to expel Julian Assange from the country’s London embassy despite tweets from WikiLeaks that sources had told it he could be kicked out within “hours to days”.

A small group of protesters and supporters of the WikiLeaks founder gathered outside the embassy in London where Assange has been holed up since August 2012.

He has feared extradition to the US since WikiLeaks published thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables.

Earlier, WikiLeaks tweeted: “BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told @WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within “hours to days” using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext–and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.”

Another tweet said it had received a secondary confirmation from another high-level source.

Ecuador’s foreign ministry released a statement saying it “doesn’t comment on rumours, theories or conjectures that don’t have any documented backing”.

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Media gather outside the Ecuadorian Embassy (John Stillwell/PA)

Later, a top official said while Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno was angered by the apparent hacking of his personal communications, he denied WikiLeaks’ claim and said no decision had been taken to expel Assange from the Embassy.

On Tuesday, Mr Moreno blamed WikiLeaks for recent allegations of offshore corruption that appeared in local media outlets and the publication of family photos to social media.

Mr Moreno accused WikiLeaks of intercepting phone calls and private conversations as well as “photos of my bedroom, what I eat, and how my wife and daughters and friends dance”.

He provided no evidence, but the speech reflected ongoing tension between Assange and his hosts at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

WikiLeaks in a statement called Mr Moreno’s charges “completely bogus”, saying it reported on the accusations of corruption against the president only after Ecuador’s legislature investigated the issue.

PA Media

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