Correa dismissed Lenin Moreno’s government’s move as a form of “torture” and a violation of Ecuador’s duties to protest Julian Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 for fear of being extradited to the US through Sweden, where he would have faced sexual assault charges.
Assange cannot leave the embassy without being arrested and extradited to the United States, where he would face espionage charges, as he has disclosed thousands of US classified documents related to military operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Correa went on to say that the denial of visitors was “a clear violation of his rights.”
“Once we give asylum to someone, we are responsible for his safety, for ensuring humane living conditions. But without communications to the outside world and visits from anyone, the government is basically attacking Julian’s mental health,” The Intercept cited him as saying.
Correa’s remarks echoed the concerns of Assange’s mother, Christine, as her son hasn’t had access to proper medical care for five years, causing a “rapid deterioration” of health.
According to Correa, the new government in Ecuador, which has recently inked an agreement “focused on security cooperation [with the US] which implies sharing information, intelligence topics and experiences in the fight against illegal drug trafficking and fighting transnational organized crime,” is returning the country back to the days when it was dominated by the United States. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if Moreno submitted to American and British demands regarding Assange.
The former president also brought up the Swedish case, saying that from the very onset, Ecuador informed both Sweden and the UK that it would send Assange to Stockholm in exchange for a promise from the Swedish side not to use the sexual assault case as a pretext to extradite the whistleblower to the United States, where he could face the death penalty. Sweden, however, refused.
“We don’t agree with everything Assange has done or what he says. And we never wanted to impede the Swedish investigation. We said all along that he would go to Sweden immediately in exchange for a promise not to extradite him to the US, but they would never give that. And we knew they could have questioned him in our embassy, but they refused for years to do so,” he said.
Correa also touched upon a recent Guardian article, which claimed that “Ecuador bankrolled a multimillion-dollar operation to protect and support Julian Assange in its central London embassy.” The report suggested that at least $5 million was invested into a secret intelligence operation, dubbed “Operation Guest,” to employ international security and undercover agents to monitor Assange’s visitors.
Correa, however, said The Guardian did not give him a chance to respond to the allegations before publishing the material, and “seemed to want to make a sensationalized story, not any serious report to find out the truth.”
Last week, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated that her government and the UK had “the intention and the interest that this be solved,” which prompted speculation, reported by the World Socialist Web Site, that Ecuador might deprive Assange of the political asylum and hand him over to British and US authorities.
The blocking of his internet access is believed to be due to a series of Assange’s tweets on the Catalan independence movement in Spain.