In two interviews Friday, President Lenin Moreno said that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange would eventually have to leave Ecuador’s London embassy. ”We have said before that he cannot stay there forever and we are in talks with his supporters and the British government about how to end the situation,” he said.
Moreno said, however, that there would be conditions to Assange’s release, including one that he not face the death penalty if he is indicted for the publication of hacked government documents. Such a condition could preclude his extradition to the U.S.
Assange has been holed-up in the embassy since 2012 when he was granted asylum by former president Rafael Correa. At the time, Assange was wanted by Swedish and British authorities for an alleged rape that occurred in Sweden. Since then, Sweden has dropped its case but the British government says its warrant is still in force.
“In Ecuador there is no death penalty but we understand that if he is arrested on new charges he could face the death sentence in other countries,” Moreno said. “We will demand a guarantee that his life will not be in danger.”
In his interviews, Moreno repeated that the Assange’s asylum was “inherited” from the Correa government and that he would not have granted it. “I don’t believe in stealing confidential government or personal documents and publicizing them to the world no matter what they say. I don’t support the work of hackers since there is no limit to the kind of information they might expose,” the president said.
Moreno again denied that the purpose of his recent trip to the UK and Spain was to make arrangements for the hand-over of Assange to British authorities. Several journalists had made that claim. “There were no discussions of the asylum case while I was in London,” he said. “The rumors were malicious and false.”
The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s backed Moreno’s claim, saying the Assange subject did not come up during his visit.