Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno has renewed pressure on Julian Assange to leave his country’s London embassy, saying the final hurdles have been cleared to end the WikiLeaks founder’s six-year stay.
Speaking in a radio interview Friday morning (Australian time), Mr Moreno said Britain had provided sufficient guarantees that Mr Assange will not be extradited to face the death penalty abroad.
The comments come after months of quiet diplomacy between the UK and Ecuador to resolve Mr Assange’s situation, as the South American country’s patience with its long-term houseguest appears to have reached its limits.
“The road is clear for Mr Assange to take the decision to leave,” Mr Moreno said.
The President did not say Mr Assange would be forced to leave the embassy, but said the activist’s legal team was considering its next steps.
Mr Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, when he claimed asylum there while facing allegations of sex crimes in Sweden, that he said were part of a plot to extradite him to the US.
Despite the UK’s extradition assurances, there would be nothing to prevent Mr Assange being sent to the US if pledges not to seek the death penalty.
Relations with his hosts have since soured to the point that Mr Moreno earlier this year cut off his internet access.
Mr Assange, who was granted Ecuadorian citizenship last year, sued his hosts saying his rights as a citizen had been violated.
In October, Ecuador formally ordered Mr Assange to steer clear of topics that could harm its diplomatic interests if he wanted to be reconnected to the internet, according to a memo published in a local media outlet.
The nine-page memo published by Ecuadorian website Codigo Vidrio said Mr Assange is prohibited from “interfering in the internal affairs of other states” or from activities “that could prejudice Ecuador’s good relations with other states”.
Instead, the memo – which is in Spanish – told Mr Assange to concentrate on the “wellbeing, food, hygiene and proper care” of his pet cat.
Mr Moreno last month said he was never “in favour” of Mr Assange’s activities.
Mr Assange claims he faces charges under seal in the US for revealing highly sensitive government information on the WikiLeaks website.
Those fears appeared to be justified when US prosecutors last month mistakenly referenced criminal charges against him in an unrelated case.