WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is reportedly on the verge of being booted out of his Ecuadorian Embassy sanctuary in London within “hours to days,” according to reports from WikiLeaks itself.
Assange has been a resident of the Embassy building for the past six years, claiming asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was facing accusations of sexual assault; claims he steadfastly denied. He remained in virtual house arrest in the embassy in order to avoid another extradition bid, this one to the United States, who are keen to prosecute him over the publishing of a massive cache of State Department and Pentagon files in 2010.
Though Swedish prosecutors dropped rape and assault charges against Assange in 2017, US authorities remain keenly interested in him, and as such the footpath outside the Ecuadorian embassy has featured a near-constant UK police presence for the entire duration of Assange’s stay.
However, in recent months, the relationship between Assange and Ecuador has soured significantly.
Some time around March last year, Ecaudorian officials cut off Assange’s access to phone and internet services inside the embassy (he wasn’t paying for them). Then in October, Assange filed suit against Ecuador after they decided to make him, among other things, clean his own bedroom and bathroom and pick up his cat’s shits. A court later ruled that these requirements do not, in fact, infringe upon Assange’s human rights. Shocker, we know.
However the straw that appears to have broken the camel’s back in this instance was the recent leaking of sensitive documents not strictly published by definitely facilitated by WikiLeaks that levelled accusations of corruption against Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, which feels extremely bite-the-hand-that-feeds-ish but go off I guess.
WikiLeaks claims that, as a result of this leak, Ecuadorian officials have told Assange to pack his bags and that arrangements for his immediate arrest upon leaving the embassy have already been made.
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.https://t.co/adnJph79wq
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 4, 2019
WikiLeaks issued a statement to AP shortly after making the claim, asserting “If President Moreno wants to illegally terminate a refugee publisher’s asylum to cover up an offshore corruption scandal, history will not be kind.” Their claim is that Ecuador is using the INA Papers scandal as a flimsy pretext to yield to increasing diplomatic pressure from the United States regarding Assange’s extradition.
Whether Assange manages a last-ditch bid to avoid capture remains to be seen at this stage. But as far as his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy is concerned, it looks like time is finally up.Image: Getty Images / Jack Taylor