WikiLeaks said its founder will be expelled from Ecuador’s London embassy within “hours to days.” The non-profit said the INA papers scandal, which has implicated Ecuador’s president, was the pretext for the expulsion.
WikiLeaks tweeted late Thursday that its founder, Julian Assange, will be expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy in London within “hours to days,” citing a “high-level source.”
Assange, who faces charges in the United States over leaked government documents, could be arrested by authorities upon leaving the embassy.
Accusations against Assange
- Ecuador has blamed WikiLeaks for the INA papers offshore scandal that has implicated President Lenin Moreno.
- Moreno has also accused Assange of repeatedly violating the conditions of his asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy.
- Ecuador also suspects WikiLeaks is responsible for the proliferation of private photos of Moreno on social media.
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
Seven-year asylum: Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden, where he faced rape charges. The Swedish judiciary has since dropped the charges, but Assange now faces arrest in the UK for violating his bail conditions by fleeing to the embassy.
Assange said he fears being extradited to the United States, where he faces charges over classified documents WikiLeaks published in 2010. However, Britain has guaranteed that the WikiLeaks founder will not be extradited to any country where his life would be in danger.
Sick of Assange: Ecuador has sought to expel Assange for several months amid souring relations. He sued Quito in October for violating his “fundamental rights” by limiting his access to the outside world. On Tuesday, Ecuadorian President Moreno said Assange “repeatedly violated” his asylum conditions in the embassy, though he did not say whether Ecuador would withdraw the Australian’s asylum.
INA papers scandal: The INA papers are a collection of documents that were leaked and published in February. The documents allegedly uncovered the operations of INA Investment Corp., an offshore tax haven created by Moreno’s brother. The trove of emails, phone communications, and bank receipts have supposedly linked the Ecuadorian president and his family to a money laundering scheme and offshore bank accounts. The revelation sparked a congressional corruption probe into Moreno.
Ecuador twists embarrassing INA Papers into pretext to oust Assange
On 26 March, WikiLeaks’ Twitter account announced that President Moreno is being investigated by Ecuador’s Congress for corruption, sparked by the INA Papers leak. The same tweet referenced President Moreno’s attempt to surrender Assange in exchange for US debt relief, a fact that had been reported by The New York Times.
Corruption investigation opened against Ecuador’s president Moreno, after purported leaked contents of his iPhone (Whatsapp, Telegram) & Gmail were published. New York Times reported that Moreno tried to sell Assange to US for debt relief. https://t.co/0KFcBrnUfr
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 25, 2019
According to Defend Wikileaks, the following day, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said that the WikiLeaks tweet was “an absurd lie to harm the dignity of our country… we will not tolerate… inventions and insults… I cannot anticipate when and when we will take action in relation to this, but we will take action for certain.”
In March 2019, Moreno’s approval ratings dropped to 17%. Statements by the government of Ecuador deliberately implicate WikiLeaks in the INApapers leak.
On 1 April, Ecuador submitted a request to the United Nations Rapporteur on Privacy to take urgent measures in response to the INApapers publication, listing WikiLeaks as the responsible party.
President Moreno, desperate to divert public attention away from the scandal, is using the claims as a pretext to oust Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. On April 2, Moreno stated that Assange has “violated the ‘conditions’ of his asylum” and that he will “take a decision” “in the short term.” He said, “In WikiLeaks there is proof of espionage, of hacking, of the fact that phones have been intercepted and private conversations, there are even pictures of my bedroom.”