WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday rejected a deal brokered between Ecuador and the United Kingdom that would allow him to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the first time in six years, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.
Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno said Assange can choose to leave the embassy without the risk of being extradited for charges abroad.
“The way has been cleared for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave in near-liberty,” Moreno told The Telegraph, without elaborating on what “near-liberty” meant.
Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, told The Telegraph that the U.K.-Ecuador agreement was not acceptable because it did not protect Assange from being extradited to the United States.
Assange has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) since 2010 after WikiLeaks leaked thousands of classified reports on the war in Afghanistan stolen by the former U.S. Army Intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.
WikiLeaks also posted thousands of emails stolen from Democrats by Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election, which has been a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible links between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
The DOJ last month inadvertently revealed in a court filing that they have prepared charges against Assange.
The charges appear to be tied to Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election but it is unclear what the charges are.
Assange reportedly fears being convicted in the U.S. and facing prison time.
“The suggestion that as long as the death penalty is off the table, Mr. Assange need not fear persecution is obviously wrong,” Pollack told the outlet. “No one should have to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information.”
Pollack added that since it appears that the U.S. has brought charges against Assange, Ecuador should continue providing him asylum.
Assange fled to the embassy in 2012 when British courts ordered he be extradited to Sweden to be questioned in a sexual assault case, which has since been dropped. He still faces charges in the U.K. for skipping bail.
He has accused the Ecuadorean government of trying to end his asylum because of new rules the embassy has imposed on him.
The set of new rules require Assange to do a variety of things including pay for medical bills and phone calls, stay away from commenting on controversial topics and clean up after his pet cat.
Credit: The Hill, https://thehill.com