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11 Jan, 2019 10:01

WikiLeaks’ Assange should surrender to UK rather than stay at embassy indefinitely – Ecuador FM

WikiLeaks’ Assange should surrender to UK rather than stay at embassy indefinitely – Ecuador FM

The UK will never let Julian Assange just leave the country, so he should surrender, Ecuador’s foreign minister said. The only other option is life self-imprisonment at the Ecuadoran embassy.

“Mr. Assange has basically two options: to stay indefinitely because the British authorities have told us ... that they will never authorize a safe passage for him to leave the embassy to a third country, and the other alternative is to surrender,” Foreign Minister José Valencia FM Mundo.

While securing safety assurances from the British side would be ideal, “you cannot continue insisting on something that will not happen,” Valencia stressed, noting that Ecuador believes that it will be “most positive” for Assange to leave the diplomatic compound and face the British law – and by extension a possible extradition to the US.

Assange has been stranded at the Ecuadoran embassy in London since 2012 when the diplomatic mission shielded him from a UK court trial for skipping bail. The move was meant to protect him from possible extradition to the US, where, Assange believes, he would face an unfair trial and a long detention for publishing American secrets. The concern was fueled last year after court papers in the US in an unrelated case mentioned a secret indictment against Assange.

The WikiLeaks editor was granted political asylum and Ecuadoran citizenship by the Latin American country’s previous president Rafael Correa. But under the new leadership of President Lenín Moreno Ecuador sought rapprochement with the US, which apparently affected the conditions for Assange. He was eventually denied means of communication and visiting rights, effectively turning his embassy stay into solitary confinement.

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If Assange decides to stay at the mission, he must abide by strict rules to maintain his asylum, the foreign minister said. The rules which were laid out last year in a special protocol restricted Assange's visitation rights, made him refrain from political statements, pay his own medical bills, and take better care of his cat, which he has since sent away to safety.

Assange’s legal troubles started over a sex-related accusation in Sweden, which has since been dropped and which his defense team insisted was a ploy to get him into Swedish custody and then extradite him to the US. He fought the extradition request from Sweden, but once he was convinced he would lose it, he skipped the bail and sought refuge at the embassy.

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In the US, Assange is considered the head of a non-state intelligence agency in cahoots with Russia to subvert American democracy – an allegation that both Moscow and WikiLeaks deny. The UN considers Assange a victim of arbitrary detention by the UK.

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