Julian Assange could soon face eviction from Ecuador embassy refuge

Richard Cosgrove

Julian Assange, the controversial figurehead of the Wikileaks organisation, could be ordered out of the Ecuador's embassy in London if the country's presidential election does not go his way.

On Sunday 2 April, the second round of the country's presidential election will be held. Candidates Guillermo Lasso and former vice-president Lenín Moreno are both vying for the position to be Ecuador's premier, but both men have opposing views over Assange.

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Lenín Moreno, a member of Ecuador's government, is supportive of Assange and has publically stated that he is welcome to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy. But this is conditional on him showing "respect in his declarations regarding our brotherly and friendly countries" – a possible reference to Wikileaks' interference in the US presidential elections and Assange's criticisms of Hillary Rodham Clinton during the campaign and Donald Trump since he took office.

Guillermo Lasso, a majority shareholder of Ecuador's Banco Guayaquil who attempted to unseat the previous incumbent president Rafael Correa in the 2013 general election, has said he will "cordially ask Senor Assange to leave with 30 days of assuming a mandate".

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Lasso explained that Assange's presence in the embassy is a drain on Ecuadorian taxpayers. Subsequently, Lasso said that Assange's presence would be "reviewed".

Assange's legal representatives have dismissed the concerns, said that Ecuador has a responsibility to protect Assange. Barrister Jennifer Chambers, who represents the Wikileaks founder, told the Guardian: "Ecuador has recognised him as a refugee, and how they have obligations to protect him, whatever happens in the elections."

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But this view is not shared by Ecuadorian legal experts. Lawyer Arturo Moscoso said as Assange's refugee status was granted by a presidential order, another order can revoke it.

Currently, Moreno is leading Lasso in polls by four points – within the margin of error.

Assange requested political asylum from Ecuador after he faced being deported from the UK after Swedish police began investigating him over a sexual assault accusation. He fled to the embassy, claiming that if he was deported to Sweden, he would then be extradited to the US to face charges over Wikileaks releasing documents provided by US soldier Chelsea Manning.

The Wikileaks organisation has not made any comment about the possibility of Assange being evicted from the embassy. But it did send a tweet on 1 April, containing a statement from the Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights published on The Indicter website, saying, "The reasons under which said asylum was granted by the government of Ecuador are objective and remain in force."

IBTimes UK has approached Wikileaks for a comment via its Twitter account. Wikileaks' representatives had not replied at the time of publication.

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