Ecuador President Lenin Moreno said that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can leave the country’s embassy in London after the United Kingdom provided enough assurances that he would not be extradited to any country where he would face the death penalty, Reuters reports.
“There is a path for Mr. Assange to take the decision to exit into near freedom,” Moreno said in a radio interview.
Assange, who has been living under asylum in the country’s embassy in London since 2012, has repeatedly said he believes he faces a sealed indictment in the United States for revealing classified information.
Moreno did not say that the government would force Assange out but added that Assange’s legal team is considering their next steps.
Assange still faces jail time in the UK for violating bail terms when he sought asylum to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he was wanted in a sexual assault investigation. The UK has said he will be arrested if he leaves the embassy.
“I do not like the presence of Mr. Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy, but we have been respectful of his human rights and with that respect in mind we think that six years is too long for someone to remain nearly incarcerated in an embassy,” Moreno said.
Assange likely under indictment in US: The news comes after federal prosecutors let slip that Assange may be under a sealed indictment in the United States.
“The Justice Department has secretly filed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, a person familiar with the case said, a drastic escalation of the government’s yearslong battle with him and his anti-secrecy group,” The New York Times reported. “Top Justice Department officials told prosecutors over the summer that they could start drafting a complaint against Mr. Assange, current and former law enforcement officials said. The charges came to light late Thursday through an unrelated court filing in which prosecutors inadvertently mentioned them.”
Ecuador president discussed handing Assange over to US: The New York Times also reported that in May 2017, former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort flew to Ecuador to offer Moreno a deal to turn Assange over to the United States. The talks never went anywhere, according to the report. Manafort was reported to have met with Assange multiple times in the embassy, which they both deny.
“Mr. Moreno had signaled during his campaign that he would like to wash his hands of Mr. Assange. And last December, Ecuador began carrying out the plan to move Mr. Assange to Russia as a diplomat,” The Times reported.