Ecuador President Says Assange Must Eventually Leave London Embassy

Ecuador President Says Assange Must Eventually Leave London Embassy © REUTERS / Peter Nichollspe

The Intercept earlier cited a source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the president's office as saying that Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno was involved in talks with the UK and was close to finalizing an agreement to hand over the WikiLeaks’ founder to the British government within the next several weeks.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said Friday that Julian Assange should eventually leave the country's embassy in London where he has been living since 2012.

"It is even a violation of human rights for a person to remain too long in isolation," Moreno said at a briefing in Madrid.

At the same time, Theresa May's office said later that the discussion of the Assange case still continued as the issue hadn't been raised during Moreno's visit to the UK.

Media have been speculating for months now that Ecuador was preparing to withdraw asylum for the world’s most wanted whistleblower after then-Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated that her government and the UK had “the intention and the interest that this be solved.”

In June, Ecuador’s new Foreign Minister Jose Valencia suggested that Assange’s asylum couldn’t last forever and stated that the country sought to solve the problem.

According to The Sunday Times, sitting president, Lenin Moreno, previously described Assange, who received refuge under his predecessor Rafael Correa, as a “hacker,” an “inherited problem” and a “stone in the shoe.”

The founder of the whistleblowing website has been living at Ecuador’s Embassy in London since 2012 when he skipped bail to enter the diplomatic premises in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. Even though Swedish prosecutors have dropped the case against him, Assange couldn’t walk out of the embassy without being arrested for breach of former bail conditions in the UK.

He could also be extradited to the United States, where he would face espionage charges for leaking thousands of sensitive documents on American military operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to The Guardian, Ecuador spent nearly $5 million on a clandestine intelligence operation, called Operation Guest, to hire international security and undercover agents to follow Assange’s visitors. The operation was purportedly endorsed by ex-president Correa and former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.