By Emily Merrell | United States
Ecuador officials are planning on withdrawing asylum from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and handing him over to the British authorities.
Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno went to London on Friday to speak at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit. He has been in a wheelchair since a 1998 robbery attempt, in which he was shot. The actual purpose of President Moreno’s trip was to meet with the British government to agree on Ecuador withdrawing protection from Julian Assange, who has been under Ecuador asylum since 2012.
Assange first came to the Ecuadorian embassy after a warrant for his arrest following allegations of sexual assault by the Swedish government. He denied the allegations and the case was closed in 2017. He stayed in the protection of Ecuador asylum out of worries that he would be prosecuted in the United States for publishing classified documents that were leaked by Chelsea Manning.
Assange has not been allowed to access the Internet. Officials stated that he violated an agreement not intervene in state affairs by tweeting support for leaders in Catalonia to secede last year, which angered the Spanish government. Moreno, who was elected as Ecuadorian president in May, has considered the Wikileaks founder a “stone in the shoe” and an “inherited problem.”
A source in contact with the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President has confirmed that Moreno is close to finalizing, if not already, an agreement to hand Assange over to the U.K. in the coming weeks. Such an agreement will depend on the rewards Ecuador will receive by withdrawing asylum from Assange. Former President of Ecuador Rafael Correa informed in an interview that Moreno has made Ecuador a highly “submissive” country toward western governments.
It is likely that the U.K., Spain, and the U.S. will be guaranteed that the U.K. will not extradite the whistleblower to the U.S. The Trump administration has promised to prosecute Assange and eliminate Wikileaks if this occurs.
Assange only has one criminal proceeding for a 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender” which carries a term of three months and a fine. However, his former arrest in the U.K. may count against the pending sentence.
The question is, what will the U.S. Government do? The Obama Administration was very eager on prosecuting Assange and Wikileaks for publishing thousands of classified documents but came to the conclusion that there would not be a way to do so without also prosecuting the New York Times and other mainstream news outlets.
However, the Trump administration has vowed to prosecute Assange as it is against the law to publish classified documents. Mike Pompeo stated that Wikileaks is a “non-state hostile intelligence service abetted by state actors like Russia” and claimed, “we have to recognize we can no longer allow Assange and Wikileaks Freedom of Speech against us.”
While nothing is certain yet, the future for Assange and Wikileaks seems very threatening.
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