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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Assange may lose Ecuadorian embassy sanctuary

Ecuador say they have an "enormous interest in finding a definitive solution to the Assange case

Julian Assange's days at the embassy may be numbered. Jack Taylor / Getty
Julian Assange's days at the embassy may be numbered. Jack Taylor / Getty

Wikileaks leader Julian Assange is on the brink of losing his sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy.

Mr Assange has lived in the embassy in London for more than five years, with the UK police reportedly spending over £12 million in their effort to maintain a police presence outside the embassy in order to arrest Mr Assange if he left.

Ecuador is exploring options to resolve his status and is seeking mediation by a third party, foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said in Quito on Tuesday.

“We have an enormous interest in finding a definitive solution to the Assange case, and for that to happen we’re in a permanent dialogue with the government of the United Kingdom,” Ms Espinosa said.

In November 2010, an attempt was made to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden, where he had previously been questioned over allegations of sexual assault and rape. He denied these allegations and said Sweden could extradite him to the United States because of his perceived role in publishing secret American documents.

Mr Assange handed himself in to UK police on 7 December 2010, and was held for ten days before being released on bail, which he broke to claim Ecuadorian asylum in August 2012. He has remained in the embassy premises in London since then.

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Over the last 12 months, Mr Assange’s behaviour on social media and determination to express his political beliefs have slowly driven a wedge between him and Ecuador president Lenin Moreno.

Weeks before the US 2016 presidential election, embassy officials cut his internet access over his involvement in leaking documents damaging to US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while more recently his support for Catalonia’s secession has provoked Spain.

Mr Moreno has warned Assange that he must respect asylum conditions and not to get involved in the affairs of other countries.

Ecuador will continue to protect Assange, but that he cannot stay at the embassy indefinitely, Ms Espinosa said. He has limited space in the embassy. He faces arrest for breaking the terms of bail set by British court during the extradition proceedings when he leaves the small apartment in London’s Knightsbridge neighbourhood.

The foreign minister’s hopes for a solution through mediation by a third country or an individual appears vague. She did not say who this might be or offer a timeline.

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