WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s days of holing up at Ecuador’s embassy in London may be numbered. The exiled whistleblower has been living at the embassy since 2012, when he sought asylum to avoid arrest on sex crime-related charges out of Sweden. While Swedish authorities have since dropped their investigation into Assange, he has remained at the London Ecuadorian embassy in an attempt to avoid a potential active arrest warrant in the United Kingdom for violating his bail in 2012.
As Daily Mail reports, Julian Assange fears that he could find himself arrested and extradited to the United States to face charges for leaking classified intelligence information if he exits the London embassy. CNN reported in 2017 that the Trump administration was preparing charges against the WikiLeaks founder related to alleged assistance he may have provided to former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, and WikiLeaks, according to CIA Director Mike Pompeo, “directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States.”
“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”
Because of his tenuous situation, Lenin Moreno, the newly elected president of Ecuador, publicly vowed during his campaign to uphold Assange’s asylum at the London embassy “as long as we assume his life may be in danger.” However, recent criticism of Moreno’s allies by Julian Assange, who is dismissed by Ecuador as a “hacker,” has reportedly worn out the WikiLeaks founder’s welcome.
Several months ago, Julian Assange angered his Ecuadorian supporters and reportedly infuriated the nation’s new president when he shared his support for Catalan separatists in Spain. Moreno responded by asking Assange to “stay out” of the situation in Spain, an ally of Ecuador. Moreno’s critique of his words prompted Julian Assange to call out the Ecuadorian president on Twitter.
“‘If President Moreno wants to gag my reporting of human rights abuses in Spain he should say so explicitly–together with the legal basis.”
On January 9, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa announced to correspondents in Quito that her nation is seeking out a neutral third-party to mediate a settlement with the United Kingdom that would allow Assange to exit the Ecuador embassy without fear of being arrested — or someone else to take responsibility for the controversial and outspoken asylum seeker. According to Espinosa, the situation with Julian Assange is now “untenable.”
“No solution will be achieved without international cooperation and the cooperation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out.”
While Julian Assange remains in self-imposed exile, hiding out behind the walls of Ecuador’s embassy in London rather than facing the music with the United Kingdom and United States, his legal team claims that the WikiLeaks founder is being “unlawfully detained.” What’s more, Assange’s lawyers called on authorities in the United Kingdom not to be intimidated by the Trump administration.
“The UN ruling, issued almost two years ago, is crystal clear in its language, Mr Assange is unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by the UK authorities and must be released. The UK should not permit itself to be intimidated by the Trump administration’s public threats to ‘take down’ Mr Assange.”
According to a Downing Street spokesperson, mediation on behalf of Julian Assange may be moot if the WikiLeaks founder is unwilling to face the consequences of his alleged past actions.
“The Government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”
The Ecuadorian foreign minister stopped short of expressly stating that the nation is on the verge of evicting Julian Assange from their embassy than the umbrella of their political asylum. This is the first time the South American nation has called for mediation for help in ridding themselves of Assange.