By Andrew Blake
Ecuador’s newly inaugurated leader warned Julian Assange against meddling in the affairs of Ecuador and its allies on Thursday as the administration of socialist President Lenin Moreno looks to resolve the international custody battle surrounding the widely sought-after WikiLeaks chief.
Mr. Moreno, 64, took office on Wednesday this week and wasted no time to lecture the WikiLeaks publisher about putting Quito in its cross-hairs. Mr. Moreno told reporters on Thursday he has “respectfully” asked Mr. Assange “not to interfere in Ecuadorian politics, nor in the politics of its allies,” rekindling a warning first issued last year under Mr. Moreno’s leftist predecessor, Rafael Correa.
“His status does not allow him to talk about the politics of any country, let alone ours,” Mr. Moreno said of the WikiLeaks chief Thursday, AFP reported.
Mr. Assange, an Australian, was granted asylum by the Correa administration in 2012 but has been confined to Ecuador’s embassy in London ever since amid an international custody battle rife with accusations of rape and espionage.
Swedish prosecutors sought Mr. Assange’s arrest for years in hopes of questioning him over allegations of sexual assault stemming from a 2010 trip to Stockholm, but closed that probe this month without bringing charges. British authorities said Mr. Assange still risks being arrested if he elects to leave the embassy, however, because he allegedly violated the terms of his probation when he took refuge there in 2012.
The U.S. Justice Department separately announced last month its intent to charge Mr. Assange for publishing a trove of classified military and diplomatic documents on WikiLeaks dating back to 2010, but neither British nor American officials have admitted whether Washington has formally requested his extradition.
Ecuador “will ensure” that Britain “allows the transfer of Mr Assange to Ecuador or to the country in which he wishes to reside,” Mr. Moreno said Thursday, AFP reported.
Mr. Assange isn’t promising he’ll stop publishing, however. In a series of tweets Friday, the WikiLeaks publisher said his website would spill Ecuador’s secrets regardless of the president’s warning.
“Ecuadorians can be confident that if WikiLeaks receives evidence of corruption in Ecuador it will be published,” Mr. Assange tweeted. “In any instance where there is a genuine legal barrier to me being the publisher I will recuse myself and my replacement will publish.”
The Correa administration throttled Mr. Assange’s internet connection inside the Ecuadorian Embassy last October after WikiLeaks began publishing emails related to the 2016 U.S. presidential race. The U.S. intelligence community has since concluded those emails were supplied to WikiLeaks after being stolen by Russian state-sponsored hackers carrying out a Kremlin-ordered interference campaign targeting former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Credit: The Washington Times, www.washingtontimes.com