Back to ‘normal’? Ecuador withdraws Assange’s extra security at London embassy

he president of Ecuador has ordered the withdrawal of enhanced security from the country’s London embassy, which was assigned to protect Julian Assange, who remains holed up there to avoid possible deportation to the US.

The Ecuadorian government “will maintain normal security similar to the level of security at all other Ecuadorean embassies in the rest of the world,” Lenin Moreno, national secretary of communication, said in a statement. He added that “additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy” in London will be withdrawn immediately.

Assange has been residing at the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK since August 2012, after British judges denied his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning in connection with sexual assault accusations.

The Australian native, whose WikiLeaks whistleblowing website published secret documents pertaining to US national security, feared that Sweden would extradite him to the US. There, he could face a similar fate as Chelsea Manning, who was court-martialed and sentenced to 35 years behind bars for violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses. Manning was subsequently pardoned by former president Barack Obama after seven years in prison.

Eventually, Assange became an Ecuadorian citizen but remains trapped inside the walls of the embassy, despite the fact that Sweden has abandoned its extradition request. The UK authorities still have an active arrest warrant against the 46-year old for skipping bail back in 2012.

READ MORE: Ecuador’s new rules ban Assange from taking visitors and phone calls – WikiLeaks

Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that Ecuador has spent $5 million accommodating Julian Assange in its UK embassy. Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa, blasted the report as a “sensationalized story,” and said that there is “nothing unusual” about providing extra security. He argued that his government “spent what amounts to a small amount of money” for that purpose.

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Ecuador’s new rules ban Assange from taking visitors and phone calls – WikiLeaks

Julian Assange has been hit with new rules limiting his communications by officials at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. The new measures include bans on using the phone and having visitors, according to WikiLeaks.

READ MORE: Assange Twitter account back tweeting as #ReconnectJulian campaign takes over

The founder of the whistleblowing website has reportedly found himself isolated within the embassy recently. In March, he had his internet access curtailed after taking to Twitter to criticize Britain’s response to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, as well as repeated comments about Spain’s dispute with Catalonia. At the time, the Ecuadorian government said Assange had breached a written commitment “not to issue messages that might interfere with other states.”

Speaking with the foreign press Wednesday, Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa confirmed that Assange was still being denied internet access while talks between the UK and Ecuador to decide on his fate are still ongoing.

"He still has no access to the Internet and communications. There is a dialogue, there is a will and an interest to move forward in the solution of that matter," he said, according to El Tiempo.

WikiLeaks claims Assange has been silenced because of pressure from the US. The website also says the description of the measures as a “social media ban” undersells the extent to which he’s being held “incommunicado.”

READ MORE: 'Assange is a war hero, he exposed American war crimes' – Vivienne Westwood

Assange has been a resident in the embassy in Knightsbridge in central London since June 2012. He had been facing extradition to Sweden over allegations he sexually assaulted two women, but he fled to the embassy after violating his bail, claiming he feared Sweden might extradite him to the US, where he would face charges over WikiLeaks’ release of classified US government cables and documents. He remains subject to arrest in the UK for jumping his bail.

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‘Julian Assange could die in Ecuadorian embassy’ – Pamela Anderson

Anderson appeared on Tuesday’s installment of ‘Good Morning Britain,’ hosted by Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid. Having complemented the former Playboy model on her looks, and asked her if she had dressed up for his benefit, Morgan got down to more serious matters.

“He’s awful. It’s terrible,” said Anderson when asked how her friend Assange was doing. “They’ve cut off internet access. He’s a political prisoner in the heart of London. It’s very surprising. Cut off from everybody.”

Asked if she “feared he was going to die in there,” Anderson replied: “He could. He’s human and I don’t know who could tolerate this, he’s a political prisoner and he’s a hero so we need to support him.”

Anderson confirmed she can no longer communicate with the man for whom she has previously expressed her love. “No, nobody can visit him right now. His lawyers possibly.” Anderson went on to say that she had visited him every time she was London up to now but that is no longer possible and she is very concerned about his health.

“I’m very, very, very, concerned, deeply concerned for him. He’s one of the most important people on the planet right now,” she said. “He’s exposing all of these war crimes and truths and we really need him at this moment. And it’s not a coincidence that he is being silenced at this time.”

Anderson believes it’s possible her relationship with Assange is being investigated. “Probably, gosh, I wouldn’t be surprised,” the Canadian address admitted before reiterating her concerns for Assange and calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to do something.

“The UK is being so stupid they have to make a decision, they keep on passing the buck no-one wants to take responsibility and they want to extradite him to the US, 100 percent, and that would be life in prison or worse,” Anderson continued.

“There’s so much going on in the world right now, I want to know what he’s thinking.”

Anderson went on to say that Assange is being “abused” and that it’s a human rights issue.

When Reid suggested that many people feel Assange should face “justice,” Anderson replied: “For what? Telling the truth and exposing war crimes. He’s not the culprit, just the messenger. You should know you’re journalists, it’s the same thing.”

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Assange: Claims UK Court Arrest Warrant Upheld 'Fake News', Hearing Is Underway

In January, Julian Assange's advocates made an application to the court, explaining that his breach of former bail conditions was no longer valid as Sweden had withdrawn the European arrest warrant and proceedings against Assange had ended.

Julian Assange has dismissed the allegations suggesting that a UK court upheld an arrest warrant against him as "fake news," adding that the hearing was still underway.

"Wall to wall fake news stating … the government won today's hearing. Nothing of the sort has happened. The hearing is still happening. Only one point has been ruled on," he posted on his Twitter account.

@JulianAssange Wall to wall fake news stating stating the government won today's hearing. Nothing of the sort has happened. The hearing is still happening. Only one point has been ruled on. https://twitter.com/JulianAssange
 
@JulianAssange Here's Canada's state TV pumping out fake news. The hearing is still on right now. We only lost the first of four points. I was never charged. My asylum was over US extradition and Sweden dropped its so-called "preliminary investigation" a year ago. https://twitter.com/CBCAlerts/status

Being afraid of extradition to the United States over his whistleblowing organization's exposure of classified documents, Assange has been living at Ecuador's embassy in London since summer 2012, being granted political asylum, thereby breaching his bail conditions.

READ MORE: 'Brilliant Idea' on Assange, Ecuador and Britain: Is the Matter Headed to ICJ?

In December 2017, Ecuador granted naturalization (the legal process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire its citizenship) to Assange. Ecuador's Foreign Ministry explained the move by saying that they feared third party states may threaten his life.

The UK issued a warrant in 2012, and he would have been arrested for skipping bail to avoid extradition to Sweden to face an allegation of rape if he attempted to leave the embassy. Despite the fact that the Swedish case has been dropped, the British authorities consider that he breached his bail conditions.

Julian Assange has been in hiding since he released thousands of classified US military documents and diplomatic cables on his whistleblowing website WikiLeaks in 2010.

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Assange Granted Ecuador Citizenship to Secure 'Human Rights'

Espinosa said that the government continues to work with the U.K. to “explore alternatives and options to resolve the case.”

After the surprising news was released two days ago, the Ecuadorean government confirmed in a press conference this morning that it WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was given citizenship in the Andean nation.

RELATED: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Granted Ecuadorean Citizenship

In a press conference held today Ecuador’s foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa reaffirmed that Julian Assange was granted Ecuadorean citizenship Dec. 21, 2017. Assange, who has been sheltered in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 19, 2012 when he was granted political asylum, began the application in September.

She stressed several times that Ecuador is following all national and international laws and is “dedicated to protecting the human rights” of Assange in this “delicate case.”

Despite the confirmed citizenship status, Espinosa said that the government continues to work with the U.K. to “explore alternatives and options to resolve the case.”

The foreign ministers said that her government tried to obtain diplomatic status for the Wikileaks founder within the United Kingdom on Dec. 20, but that the British government immediately denied the asylum seeker such status.

Earlier this week Ecuador's foreign ministry released a statement that read: "Julian Assange received international protection from the Ecuadorean government in August 2012.

"The current government inherited this issue and it's looking for solution alternatives, with full respect of national and international law, as well as human rights... in coordination with the United Kingdom, with which we have the best friendship and cooperation relations."

Assange is committed to not "intervening in issues non-related with his asylum condition," as requested by Ecuadorian government, the statement continued.

The Foreign Office in the UK has confirmed that Assange continues to face arrest for breaching bail conditions if he leaves the embassy premises. He fears that if arrested by UK authorities they he will be extradited to the United States whose government is looking to prosecute Assange for publishing thousands of U.S. classified military and diplomatic documents via his Wikileaks page.

Rumors about Assange's condition were sparked Jan. 1 when he tweeted a 60-character code and a link to the song "Paper Planes" by British singer MIA. The Ecuadorean government has since insisted that "nothing has happened."

In a picture posted Wednesday on his personal Twitter account, Assange appears wearing a jersey from Ecuador's national football team.

The Australian activist now appears in Ecuador's Civil Registry database and holds an identity document: 'Julian Paul Assange' is registered in the Internal Revenue Service with document number 1729926483.

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Manhattan attack wouldn't have happened if CIA ‘spent less time’ arming terrorists – Assange

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange slammed the CIA, saying the deadly terrorist attack in New York overnight might not have happened if the agency investigated terrorists instead of training and arming them.

“If the CIA spent more time investigating terrorists and less time training and arming them we might not have had today’s truck attack in New York,” the whistleblower tweeted following the attack in lower Manhattan that left eight people dead and a dozen injured on Tuesday.

@JulianAssange If the CIA spent more time investigating terrorists and less time training and arming them we might not have had today's truck attack in New York.

The suspect, reportedly identified as 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbekistan native, drove a rented truck onto a bike path near the World Trade Center memorial, striking several pedestrians and cyclists. The vehicle did not stop until it hit a school bus, then the suspect left his vehicle holding two “imitation firearms” and shouting “Allahu Akbar.” He was shot by police officers before being taken into custody.

READ MORE: Videos show Manhattan terrorist attack suspect, victims & aftermath (GRAPHIC)

The suspect reportedly had a note in his truck that said he committed the attack on behalf of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), law enforcement told NBC News.

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WikiLeaks’ Assange defies Ecuadorian warnings, will publish any evidence of corruption

Responding to comments from newly elected Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno warning Julian Assange not to ‘interfere’ in South American politics, WikiLeaks’ founder said Ecuador can be “confident” that any evidence of corruption will still be published.

Speaking at a ceremony at the Cochasqui archeological site in the Northern Andes on Thursday, President Moreno “respectfully” called on Assange “not to interfere in Ecuadorian politics, nor in the politics of its allies.”

@JulianAssange Ecuadorians can be confident that if WikiLeaks receives evidence of corruption in Ecuador it will be published.

@JulianAssange In any instance where there is a genuine legal barrier to me being the publisher I will recuse myself and my replacement will publish.

“His status does not allow him to talk about the politics of any country, let alone ours,” he said, according to CapitalNews.

In response, Assange, who is still under virtual house arrest inside Ecuador’s London embassy, sent out a series of tweets that seemed to imply he would fulfill his duty as a journalist to work in the “public interest,” regardless of the embassy’s hospitality.

He added that if there are any legal barriers to him publishing, he will find alternatives to assure that the material reaches the public.

Despite the warning, Moreno, who took office on Wednesday, also said his country “will ensure” Britain “allows the transfer of Mr. Assange to Ecuador or to the country in which he wishes to reside.”

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 in order to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face sex offence allegations.

 
© Stefan Wermuth

 

Although Swedish prosecutors dropped the case last week, British police say Assange could still be arrested for breaching bail conditions, which has forced him to remain in the embassy.

If arrested, Assange fears he will be extradited to the US for leaking classified material.

Appearing on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy last Friday, Assange said there is still much to do before he can walk free.

“We have today won an important victory, but the road is far from over. The proper war is just commencing.

“The claim that the UK has the right to arrest me for seeking asylum in a case where there have been no charges is simply untenable,” Assange remarked.

“My legal staff have contacted the UK authorities and we hope to engage in a dialogue about what is the best way forward,” he noted.

Assange has also pledged that WikiLeaks will carry on publishing material in the US, and even “accelerate” this process.

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Swedish prosecutor drops case against Julian Assange

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange says he will not "forgive or forget," despite a Swedish prosecutor dropping the case into rape accusations against him. His attorney hailed the move as a "victory," but said there is still a threat the US will apply to extradite him from the UK.

The decision was made by Sweden’s director of public prosecution, who confirmed that she decided to discontinue the investigation against the WikiLeaks co-founder.

"Director of Public Prosecution, Ms Marianne Ny, has today decided to discontinue the investigation regarding suspected rape (lesser degree) by Julian Assange," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Ny said the prosecution is not making "any statement of guilty or not" in regards to Assange. 

Assange’s defense lawyer, Per Samuelson, told AP that the fact that the prosecution won't admit Assange is innocent is simply a matter of them "trying to save their faces."

"The truth is, once they heard Julian Assange during the interview in November last year, they were convinced...he gave a very good explanation to what happened between him and the woman, and that explanation fitted as a glove to all the circumstances in the case. So they could no longer see towards a conviction. If they had indicted him, he would have been acquitted."

Samuelson has called the prosecution’s decision a “total victory.”

He told Ruptly that he believes the situation "will go over very quickly, I think it's just a matter of time, negotiations between the two countries, United Kingdom and Ecuador, then they will led him go from the embassy to Ecuador."

However, he also told Ruptly that "the threat from the USA is for real. There is a risk that the United States will apply to the United Kingdom, to get him extradited..."

The attorney said he called Assange earlier on Friday.

"I asked him, 'does it feel better today?' and he said 'yes Per, it feels much better today,'" Samuelson said. 

READ MORE: Assange case dropped by Swedish prosecutor Live updates

Assange later stated on Twitter that he "does not forgive or forget," noting that his name had been slandered.

Meanwhile, Ny said the investigation could be reopened if Assange returns to Sweden before the statute of limitations lapses in 2020.

Assange has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over the allegation, which he denies.

Another of Assange's lawyers, Juan Braco, told AP that he wants French President Emmanuel Macron to intervene to support the WikiLeaks founder and help him leave the Ecuadorian embassy.

“We need a political intervention to make this situation end. He is the only political prisoner in Western Europe," he said.

The Friday decision comes after Assange’s Swedish lawyer filed a motion which demanded that the arrest warrant be lifted, after US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in April that arresting the WikiLeaks co-founder would be a “priority.”

US authorities have been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks since at least 2010, when the site posted thousands of cables stolen by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The publication of classified US military and diplomatic documents represents one of the biggest information leaks in American history.

Just days ago, Ecuador voiced concern over the “serious lack of progress” by Sweden in dealing with Assange, citing a “serious failure” by the prosecution to complete the inquiry into the alleged sexual assault.

One of Assange’s lawyers said earlier on Friday that closing the investigation or lifting the European arrest warrant would not necessarily mean he could easily leave for Ecuador, which has granted him asylum.

“The first thing one likely needs to do is seek guarantees from the British authorities that he won’t be seized in some other way,” Melinda Taylor told TT news agency.

Meanwhile, London’s Metropolitan Police have announced that Assange will still be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

“Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence,” it wrote in a statement.

Assange is wanted by Britain for skipping bail when he fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012.

Samuelson told AP that Assange is not surprised that the UK is still pursuing him, noting that “it’s been in the pipeline for quite a while.”

He noted, however, that he believes this question is a “minor one which will be solved in the near future.”

READ MORE: Assange timeline: Life under siege in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy

A UN panel stated in February 2016 that Assange had been arbitrarily detained, and that the UK and Sweden should take immediate steps to ensure his freedom of movement. 

Assange declared the ruling a "victory that cannot be denied," while both Britain and Sweden disagreed that he was being denied freedom, as he had entered the Ecuadorian embassy voluntarily.

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