US House of Representatives lawmakers Eliot Engel (Democrat, New York) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican, Florida) of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs have written a letter to Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno urging his government to turn over the co-founder of WikiLeaks.
Talking about the "significant progress" made by Moreno's administration and hinting at the prospects of the resumption of US development aid, the little reported on letter spoke of the need to "first resolve a significant challenge" created by the president's predecessor, Rafael Correa.
NEW: Ahead of midterms, ranking Democrat, but not Republican, of House Foreign Relations Committee pressures Ecuador's president @Lenin to hand over @WikiLeaks' publisher @JulianAssange "A dangerous criminal and a threat to global security"— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) 17 октября 2018 г.
Background: https://t.co/Mb6gXlz7QS pic.twitter.com/JIcH1pzvu7
Expressing "concern" over Assange's continued presence in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and his receipt of Ecuadorian citizenship last year, the letter charged Assange with repeatedly "compromis[ing] the national security of the United States."
Assange, the letter claims, harmed US security interests "by publicly releasing classified government documents, along with confidential materials from individuals connected to our country's 2016 presidential election." Furthermore, accusing him of using "his standing in the international media to meddle in the affairs of foreign governments," the letter suggested that it was "clear that Mr. Assange remains a dangerous criminal and a threat to global security, and he should be brought to justice."
Saying they remained "hopeful" about improving US-Ecuador relations, the lawmakers said that it would be "very difficult for the United States to advance our bilateral relationship until Mr. Assange is handed over to the proper authorities."
Last week, the whistleblower's lawyer said he would be filing a case against Ecuador's government for violating Assange's "fundamental rights and freedoms" by cutting off his communications to the outside world. During a press conference, Assange attorney Baltasar Garzon also said that there were presently no plans to take Assange to Russia amid rumors that the Ecuadorian Embassy may expel him.
Julian Assange has been trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, fearing arrest by UK authorities for a violation of bail and deportation to the US. The Embassy cut Assange's internet access in early 2018, but partially restored it last week.
In August, President Moreno raised the issue of terminating Assange's asylum at the embassy, saying that Ecuador would be "happy" to let Assange go, but only if UK authorities would guarantee his safety.