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Ecuador: Enough UK guarantees for Assange to leave embassy

Ecuador: Enough UK guarantees for Assange to leave embassy

December 7th, 2018 in International News

FILE - In this May 24, 2018 file photo, Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno delivers his first, annual state-of-the-nation address inside the National Assembly in Quito, Ecuador. Moreno said in a radio interview Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, that Britain has provided sufficient guarantees for Assange to leave his government’s embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been living under asylum since 2012. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa, File)

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador’s president has ramped up pressure on Julian Assange to leave his country’s embassy in London, saying Britain had provided sufficient guarantees the WikiLeaks founder won’t be extradited to face the death penalty abroad.

Lenin Moreno’s comments in a radio interview Thursday suggest months of quiet diplomacy between the United Kingdom and Ecuador to resolve Assange’s situation is bearing fruit at a time when questions are swirling about the former Australian hacker’s legal fate in the U.S.

“The road is clear for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave,” Moreno said, referring to written assurances he said he had received from Britain.

Moreno didn’t say he would force Assange out, but said the activist’s legal team is considering its next steps.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, when he was granted asylum while facing allegations of sex crimes in Sweden that he said were a guise to extradite him to the U.S.

However, his relations with his hosts have soured to the point Moreno earlier this year cut off his access to the internet, purportedly for violating the terms of his asylum by speaking out on political matters.

Assange in turn sued, saying his rights as an Ecuadorian — he was granted citizenship last year as part of an apparent attempt to name him a diplomat and ferry him to Russia — were being violated.

The mounting tensions has drawn Moreno closer to the position of Britain, which for years has said it is barred by law from extraditing suspects to any jurisdiction where they would face capital punishment.

However, nothing is preventing it from extraditing him to the U.S. if prosecutors there were to pledge not to seek the death penalty.

Assange has long maintained the he faces charges under seal in the U.S for revealing highly sensitive government information on his website.