Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry has refused to comment on claims by WikiLeaks that its founder, Julian Assange, will be sometime soon be expelled from the country’s embassy in London, where he has been confined since 2012.
The ministry released a statement saying it "doesn't comment on rumours, theories or conjectures that don't have any documented backing."
Earlier, on Thursday, WikiLeaks tweeted from its verified account the following:
"BREAKING: 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", the organisation wrote.
According to Assange’s Ecuadorian lawyer, Carlos Poveda, cited by international media, “it could happen”, as the Ecuadorian government could apply a protocol to terminate his asylum. “But this would be in coordination with the United Kingdom so his exit could be shown as a war's trophy", the lawyer concluded.
On Tuesday, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno told local media that Assange has on multiple occasions violated the embassy’s protocol, which was previously agreed upon with him and his lawyers.
WikiLeaks’ founder has been staying inside the walls of the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012, when he was granted asylum so that he could avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was facing sexual assault charges.
Although the case has recently been dropped, Assange remained in the embassy for fears of extradition to the US, where he is facing criminal charges over his work with the whistleblowing site.
The charges were revealed in a US court filing in November 2018. The Justice Department kick-started its investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks back in 2010, shortly after the website posted thousands of classified cables, including on the US’ Iraq campaign stolen by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Since Moreno assumed office in 2017, WikiLeaks’ founder has repeatedly noted that Ecuador has been trying to pressure him, making his life there difficult in the hope to make him vacate the building. Ecuador has denied this, with Attorney General Inigo Salvador pointed out to journalists in October that his country was "not looking to revoke" Assange's asylum.
Meanwhile, in December, Moreno advised Assange to hand himself in to the authorities, provided the UK government guaranteed that Assange would not be extradited anywhere where he could face the capital punishment.
Last year, Ecuador introduced a set of new rules applying to Assange’s ongoing stay there: for instance, he is now required to pay for his food, medical care, laundry, and the Internet connection, as well as formally inform the embassy’s senior staff about his upcoming visitors.