Ecuadoran President: Julian Assange attempted to use Embassy as 'spying centre

Assange, 47, was kicked out of the Ecuadoran Embassy last Thursday after his political asylum was revoked, putting an end to his almost seven-year stint.

Published: 16th April 2019 12:57 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th April 2019 12:57 AM   |  A+A-


Julian Assange gestures as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London (Photo | AP)


LONDON: Justifying his decision to withdraw Julian Assange's asylum status, Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno in an interview to the Guardian newspaper on Sunday that the Wikileaks founder had violated his asylum rules many times and attempted to use the Embassy as a "centre for spying".

The British newspaper reported that Moreno accused Assange of hacking into his private details after Wikileaks leaked photos of the President dinning on his bed with a giant platter of lobster in front of him.

This was followed by snapshots of 200 private e-mails, texts, documents and other photos of Moreno along with his wife on lavish European vacations, which were posted on the anonymous website early last month, at a time when austerity measures have been implemented on Ecuador.

"Any attempt to destabilise is a reprehensible act for Ecuador because we are a sovereign nation and respectful of the politics of each country," The Guardian quoted Moreno as saying.

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

Referring to the leaked pictures, he said: "We cannot allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a centre for spying. This activity violates asylum conditions. Our decision is not arbitrary but is based on international law."

Moreno told The Guardian that he has been promised in written undertakings that Assange's fundamental rights would be taken care of and would not be sent to any other country that would likely award him death penalty.

Assange, 47, was kicked out of the Ecuadoran Embassy last Thursday after his political asylum was revoked, putting an end to his almost seven-year stint.

After being found guilty of breaching his bail conditions, Assange now faces up to 12 months prison sentence. He lost the battle against his extradition to Sweden where he faced allegations including of rape, which he denies.

In addition, the Wikileaks founder is also facing extradition to the United States which has accused him of leaking classified government information and conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, who allegedly provided the whistleblower with a password to government computers.

Meanwhile, revoking Assange's asylum has triggered controversies in Ecuador. Former President Rafael Correa has accused US Moreno of "crime humanity will never forget" and described him as "the greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history", The Guardian reported.

In his interview, the Ecuadoran President further accused Assange of repeatedly interfering in the internal affairs of other states, referring to WikiLeaks' publication of Vatican documents in January 2019.

"It is unfortunate that there are individuals dedicated to violating the privacy of people," Moreno told The Guardian.

The President said the decision to remove Assange from the embassy was a sovereign decision of his government and was not forced upon him by any external power, apparently referring to the United States and Britain.

"He was a guest who was offered a dignified treatment, but he did not have the basic principle of reciprocity for the country that knew how to welcome him, or the willingness to accept protocols [from] the country that welcomed him. The withdrawal of his asylum occurred in strict adherence to international law. It is a sovereign decision. We do not make decisions based on external pressures from any country," Moreno was quoted as saying.

However, Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson has refuted the allegations of poor behaviour on Assange's part on Sunday.

Assange's father, John Shipton, has also requested the Australian government to step in and bring his son back to his homeland.

As Assange faces extradition to two countries, it is up to the British Home Secretary to decide next which country should take priority in his case.

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