Ecuador Rejects WikiLeaks Claims That It Plans to Expel Assange

Jose Orozco, Thomas Penny and Stuart Biggs
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Ecuador Rejects WikiLeaks Claims That It Plans to Expel Assange

(Bloomberg) -- Ecuador rejected WikiLeaks’ claims that it plans to expel the organization’s founder Julian Assange from its London embassy, calling them “false news” aimed at undermining the dignity of the country.

In a statement Friday evening, Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry denied it has an agreement with the U.K. about Assange’s arrest. By spreading such news, “the asylum seeker and his associates express once again ingratitude and disrespect toward Ecuador," the ministry said.

WikiLeaks said earlier on Twitter that Ecuador was about to expel its founder within “hours to days,” citing what it called a high level source within the Ecuadorian government. Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Assange, declined to immediately comment.

Assange sought the protection of Ecuador in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced rape allegations, or the U.S., where he could be punished for publishing secret government documents. Swedish prosecutors have since dropped the charges against Assange but he failed in an attempt last year to have the U.K. arrest warrant against him dropped.

U.S. prosecutors in court filings last year may have inadvertently revealed that Assange has been charged in America. In an unrelated case, federal prosecutors in Virginia said that “no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.”

The U.K. has said Assange, who is wanted for skipping bail, will be arrested when he leaves the embassy. If the U.S. puts in an extradition request, a London court will review the matter in a process that could last months.

WikiLeaks cited the unidentified person as saying the planned expulsion is a response to the organization’s recent tweet linking to a website that alleged money laundering and corruption during Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s time as United Nations special envoy for the disabled in Geneva. Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said last month that the government was “very surprised” by that and other actions by Assange and his lawyers.

The website in question also linked to emails and phone screen captures tying Moreno to the corruption scandal. Moreno, speaking in a nationwide broadcast Feb. 27, denied any wrongdoing.

Ecuador last year introduced rules governing Assange’s life in its London embassy. The protocol, which warned that it could expel him if he should violate its terms, addressed public statements that could damage the host government. Assange, who was granted asylum by Ecuador in 2012, lost local and international legal challenges against the protocol.

(Fixes typo in third graf.)

--With assistance from Jim Silver, Sam Kim, Ken McCallum and Shikhar Balwani.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jose Orozco in Mexico City at jorozco8@bloomberg.net;Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net;Stuart Biggs in London at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ney Hayashi at ncruz4@bloomberg.net, Anthony Aarons, Ken McCallum

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