The president of Ecuador Lenin Moreno today described WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as an “inherited problem” that has created “more than a nuisance” for his government. “We hope to have a positive result” on the issue, he said in an interview with television networks.
Earlier this month, Ecuador announced it had granted citizenship to Assange, in an unsuccessful attempt to provide him with diplomatic immunity and usher him out of its London embassy without the threat of arrest by Britain. Moreno said his country was continuing to seek mediation involving “important people,” without specifying whom he meant.
Assange fled to the embassy in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden for alleged sex crimes, which he denies, and has remained in the building ever since. Sweden later shelved its investigation, but Assange faces arrest by British authorities for fleeing justice in the Swedish case. He fears British authorities will then allow his extradition to the United States where he is wanted for publication by WikiLeaks of classified information in 2010.
The WikiLeaks founder has strained the patience of his hosts since taking up the offer of asylum made by then-president Rafael Correa in 2012. He was publicly reprimanded for interfering in the 2016 US election after publishing hacked emails from the campaign team of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
More recently, he drew the ire of Correa’s successor, President Moreno, when he used Twitter to pump out messages of support for Catalonia’s independence drive. Moreno was forced to respond to complaints from the Spanish government.
Commenting on the move to designate Assange a diplomat, Moreno said, “This would have been a good result, unfortunately, things did not turn out as the foreign ministry planned and so the problem still exists.” Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa has confirmed that Ecuador will maintain the asylum granted to Assange by the government of former president Rafael Correa.
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