Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and
media crews gathered outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London on
Friday, after the whistleblowing website Wikileaks tweeted that
Assange was due to be kicked out of the building.
WikiLeaks late Thursday tweeted: "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."
Ecuador, however, distanced itself from WikiLeaks' assertion that Assange risks being kicked out imminently. "The government will not comment on the current unfounded rumours, which are also insulting. Ecuador makes its decisions in a sovereign and independent way," Foreign Minister Jose Valencia said on Twitter. He added that a government has the sovereign right to "unilaterally grant or recall" diplomatic asylum if it so decides. The tweets briefly disappeared from his feed, but re-appeared. According to an explanatory note they were mistakenly deleted.
Assange's supporters hung banners on a fence outside the embassy building; one read "Free Assange." Two supporters wearing so-called Anonymous masks also briefly held up a placard with the text "Free Julan Assange" at the entrance to the building where the embassy is located.
Assange's legal team meanwhile voiced concern, saying: "Expelling Julian Assange would be illegal, violate international refugee law and be an attack on the UN which has repeatedly called for Assange to be able to walk free," the Press Association reported. The INA papers mentioned by WikiLeaks are a collection of documents leaked to an Ecuadorian lawmaker and which have implicated President Lenin Moreno in a corruption scandal. Earlier this week, Moreno accused Assange of repeatedly violating the terms of his asylum and said Quito was seeking an arrangement with Britain to allow him to leave the embassy. Ecuador also suspects that WikiLeaks is responsible for sharing private photographs of Moreno on social media recently.
Assange has been holed up in the embassy since 2012 to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape. The Swedish judiciary has since dropped its investigation, but British authorities have said they will still arrest the Australian when he leaves the embassy because he violated his bail conditions by fleeing.
Assange says he fears being extradited to the United States where he could face charges relating to the publication of hacked government documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Stockholm daily Svenska Dagbladet reported on Friday that Assange has requested compensation from the Swedish state for his legal costs in Sweden, totalling about 9 million kronor (969,000 dollars). The claim has been filed to the Supreme Court after two lower courts rejected the claim.
Christine Assange, Assange's mother, wrote on Twitter on Friday, "The US is making its move to grab my son Julian!" In late 2017, Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship. His relations with his embassy hosts have been deteriorating for the past year, with Ecuador last year cutting off his internet.
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