WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange reportedly violated his asylum conditions when he used the Ecuadorian embassy in London as a “center for spying,” the country’s president said in a new interview.
Lenin Moreno told the Guardian newspaper that Ecuador’s government had provided facilities within the embassy that allowed Assange to “interfere” with other states.
“Any attempt to destabilize is a reprehensible act for Ecuador because we are a sovereign nation and respectful of the politics of each country,” he said in his first English-language interview since Assange’s arrest last week. “We cannot allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a center for spying.”
He added: “This activity violates asylum conditions. Our decision is not arbitrary but is based on international law.”
Assange was arrested by British authorities and dragged out of the embassy last Thursday after his seven-year asylum was revoked – paving the way for possible extradition to the United States, where he faces conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for aiding Chelsea Manning's leak of classified government documents.
His relationship with his hosts collapsed after Ecuador accusing him of leaking information about Moreno’s personal life. But Moreno denied to the Guardian that he acted as a reprisal.
“He was a guest who was offered a dignified treatment, but he did not have the basic principle of reciprocity for the country that knew how to welcome him, or the willingness to accept protocols [from] the country that welcomed him,” he added. “The withdrawal of his asylum occurred in strict adherence to international law. It is a sovereign decision. We do not make decisions based on external pressures from any country.”
Ecuador has claimed that Assange mistreated embassy staff, put excrement on walls, left soiled laundry in the bathroom and improperly looked after his cat, among other things.
A lawyer representing Assange accused Ecuador’s government on Sunday of spreading lies about his behavior inside in London.
Jennifer Robinson told Sky News the Ecuadorian government is spreading alleged falsehoods to divert attention from its decision to revoke his asylum and allow his arrest at its British embassy. Assange has had "a very difficult time" since Moreno took office in Ecuador in 2017, Robinson said.
"I think the first thing to say is Ecuador has been making some pretty outrageous allegations over the past few days to justify what was an unlawful and extraordinary act in allowing British police to come inside an embassy," Robinson said.
Assange, who appeared much older when he emerged from the embassy than when before he sought refuge there in August 2012 — perhaps owing partly to the presence of a lengthy, white beard – is in custody at Belmarsh Prison in southeast London awaiting sentencing in Britain for skipping bail to avoid being sent to Sweden as part of an investigation of a rape allegation. Sweden is considering reviving the investigation.
On Monday, two left-wing German lawmakers Heike Hansel and Sevim Dagdelen, and Spanish MEP, Ana Miranda, held a press conference outside Belmarsh calling on European states to offer him asylum and prevent his extradition to the U.S.
Dagdelen, who is a member of The Left party, said the EU should "take action" to protect the "persecuted political publisher and journalist", the BBC reported.
Assange's next court appearance is scheduled for May 2. In the meantime, he is expected to seek prison medical care for severe shoulder pain and dental problems, WikiLeaks has said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.