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Ecuador is denying claims made by WikiLeaks that its founder Julian Assange will be expelled from the Ecuadorian assembly in London.
WikiLeaks originally made the announcement last week, claiming a “high level source” told the organization Assange would be expelled “within ‘hours to days.'” Assange has been living in the embassy since 2012 when he was granted asylum while fleeing Sweden amid sexual assault charges.
BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told @WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within "hours to days" using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext--and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.https://t.co/adnJph79wq— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 4, 2019
The Ecuadorian government on Friday responded to the claims in a statement, since translated by NBC News, denying the claim and citing the rumor as “an attempt to stain the dignity of the country.”
“This information came from a credible source high up in the Ecuadorian government and that information was given to Wikileaks,” Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson told Sunrise, an Australian TV show, this weekend. “It’s a very serious situation, one that we’re concerned about.
“The accusation was that they’re going to expel him and that there’s an agreement with the U.K. that his asylum protection would not be respected and he could be extradited to the United States, with an assurance that he wouldn’t be sent to the death penalty,” Robinson added. “Now that’s not the base upon which he was granted asylum in the first place.”
Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 when he sought asylum from the authorities to avoid extradition to the U.S.
Ecuador has expressed its disappointment with accusations from a party that it says it’s spent a lot of money to protect. In a statement released on Friday, Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned WikiLeaks’ “ingratitude and disrespect” for spreading the news, adding that the country made “significant expenditures to pay for his stay.”
The WikiLeaks announcement got many riled up; British police reportedly gathered outside the embassy following the tweet, ready to arrest him should he be released.
The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner said on Friday that it was “alarmed” by reports of Assange potentially being expelled.
“In my assessment, if Mr. Assange were to be expelled from the Embassy of Ecuador, he is likely to be arrested by British authorities and extradited to the United States,” UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer said in a statement. “Such a response could expose him to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“According to information I have received, Mr. Assange is at risk of extreme vulnerability, and his health is in serious decline. I therefore appeal to the Ecuadorian authorities to continue to provide him, to the fullest extent possible in the circumstances, with adequate living conditions and access to appropriate medical care,” the statement further read.
Assange’s lawyer, in her interview with Sunrise, insisted similarly.
“We want him to be able to come home to Australia,” she said. “He’s living inside a ground floor flat, he doesn’t have outside access, he can’t exercise, he can’t go outside for medical treatment. He has very limited access to the outside world. We consider this is going to have a permanent impact upon his health, and that is torture.”
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque