Ecuador denies decision made to expel Julian Assange from London embassy

Sources within the Ecuadorian state allegedly told Wikileaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within “hours to days”

Suporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and members of the media gather outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 5th, 2019. Photograph Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Suporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and members of the media gather outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on April 5th, 2019. Photograph Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

 

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 Mr 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”.

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

Supporters of Julian Assange and media have gathered outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after fears were raised that the WikiLeaks founder was about to be expelled.

Ongoing tension

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. A van arrived at the London Embassy bearing a billboard in support of Mr Assange, and parked in a space reserved for diplomats.

The man who arranged the board and gave his name as Fethi said: “I’m here to support Julian Assange. We just wonder if the police will take him away.”

Fethi, who briefly went into the embassy before he was escorted out by officials, said he does not believe Mr Assange will be expelled.

“We’re going to be staying here until we see what’s going on,” he said.

A picture on the billboard showed Mr Assange gagged by an American flag with the message #FreeSpeech. A member of staff inside the six-storey building declined to comment. Mr Assange has been living inside the embassy for almost seven years. – AP and PA