Britain is in secret talks with Ecuador to evict Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from its embassy in London, sources report.
Senior foreign officials, believed to include the Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, are in talks to try and decide Assange’s future. The reports do not indicate whether Assange will be allowed safe passage to Ecuador or whether he would be arrested by British police.
He has been living at the embassy in Knightsbridge, in London, since June 2012 and is fearful he will be extradited to the United States if he leaves.
The top-level discussions come just weeks before a UK visit by new Ecuador President Lenin Moreno who has previously called Assange a ‘hacker’ and a “stone in the shoe”, according to The Sunday Times.
Sources close to Assange believe his political asylum cannot be revoked and that he was not aware of the high-level talks.
In a recent visit to Ecuador in late June. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence raised the issue of the Australian anti-secrecy activist.
Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said: “Ecuador and the United Kingdom, and of course Mr Assange as a person who is currently staying, on asylum, at our embassy. It does not enter, therefore, on an agenda with the United States.”
Assange was given political asylum under Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa, but it has been far from smooth sailing with the new administration. Assange’s internet was cut off in March this year and restrictions were placed on who could visit him.
President Moreno also ordered the removal of extra security at the embassy which has cost the country at least £3.7 million. The operation — initially called ‘Operation Guest’ and later ‘Operation Hotel’ — ran up an average cost of at least $66,000 (£48,885) a month.
While in the embassy Assange’s physical and mental health is believed to have deteriorated.
Foreign Office Minister previously Sir Alan Duncan previously branded Mr Assange a “miserable little worm” during a Commons debate in March, adding he should leave the Ecuadorian embassy and surrender to British justice.
The news comes at a difficult time for Mr Assange after 12 Russians were indicted for hacking Hilary Clinton’s emails during her campaign to become President in 2016. Wikileaks — which he founded — published the emails during the tightly fought election race which was eventually won by Donald Trump.
If he is allowed safe passage to Ecuador, Assange has said he will live in either Quito or Cuenca.
Credit: The Daily Mail, www.dailymail.co.uk