A vigil for Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London has entered its second day amid fears the WikiLeaks founder will be expelled.
Supporters of Assange began arriving outside the embassy on Friday morning (local time) after WikiLeaks raised the alarm, saying the Australian’s expulsion was imminent.
Ecuador’s foreign minister, Jose Valencia, has since dismissed the report as “unfounded rumours” in a Twitter post.
On Saturday up to a dozen Assange supporters remained outside the embassy, some holding signs with messages including “free Julian Assange” and “defend free speech”.
Andy, a supporter who did not wish to give his last name, said he fears Assange will face life imprisonment or the death penalty in the US over Wikileaks’ releases of confidential US diplomatic and military documents.
“They may remove him soon, they’ve threatened to remove him soon,” he told AAP.
“So that’s why a number of us have showed up today, a number of us have showed up yesterday and we’ll stick around tomorrow as well, just in case he comes out.”
“He’s banned from any visitors, he’s banned from an internet, so the only thing we can do is literally stand on a cold street holding up a couple signs just to remind him that he’s not forgotten about.
“We stand with him in this struggle for freedom of speech.”
— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) April 6, 2019
A British police officer outside the embassy confirmed to AAP that Assange would be arrested on an outstanding UK warrant as soon as he leaves the building.
Two motorcycle police officers stopped outside the building intermittently on Saturday while van-loads of tactical police circled the block, in the upmarket area of Knightsbridge, every hour.
An officer said the vans were doing a routine embassy district run.
The curtains at the Ecuadorian embassy remained drawn and there was no sign of Assange.
Shoppers from nearby upscale department store Harrods posed for selfies with Assange supporters, while a man wearing a Black Lives Matter jumper blasted songs by The Clash, Billy Brag and Bob Marley from an amplifier mounted on a trolley.
Stressed and uncertain
At one point a separate march of “yellow vest” demonstrators stopped outside the embassy, the small crowd chanting “free Julian Assange”, before moving on.
A friend who visited the WikiLeaks founder on Friday, Vaughan Smith, described him as being stressed over the situation and said Assange wanted to stay where he was.
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 Assange because he violated his bail conditions by fleeing to the diplomatic refuge.
Assange fears being extradited to the US over the publication of hacked government documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
WikiLeaks said Ecuador would use the INA Papers offshore scandal as a pretext to expel Assange, and that Ecuador had an agreement with the UK for his arrest.
The INA Papers are a collection of documents leaked to an Ecuadorian lawmaker, which have implicated President Lenin Moreno in a corruption scandal.
The WikiLeaks statement came two days after Mr Moreno accused Assange of repeatedly violating the terms of his asylum.