Saturday, 18 February 2017 08:57

Assange may be evicted if Ecuador ruling party loses Featured

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WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange may find himself expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy where he has been taking refuge for more than four years if there is a change of government in that country's Sunday's elections.

Ecuador President Rafael Correa granted Assange asylum in 2012. The only time things have looked prickly for Assange since then was during the release of emails from the US Democratic National Committee ahead of last year's presidential elections, when Assange's Internet access was cut by the embassy which took a dim view of what it said was interference in another country's elections.

Eight candidates are in the running in Ecuador and two — Guillermo Lasso of Creating Opportunities and Cynthia Viteri of the Social Christian Party — have said they will ask Assange to leave the embassy, according to The New York Times.

Current polling in Quito indicates that Correa's preferred successor, Lenín Moreno of the ruling PAIS Alliance, will win, but only after a second-round runoff. This means Assange's fate is likely to be known only by April.

The Ecuadorian newspaper El Comerico quoted Viteri as saying she would cancel Assange's asylum if she won.

"As president of this nation, I need the money used for his upkeep, for example to pay for my children's school lunches," she said. "I withdraw his asylum for the purchase, in my opinion, of Assange's silence."

Lasso told The Guardian that, "the Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear. We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate".

The Assange saga began in August 2010 when he visited Sweden to address a conference. During that visit, he had sexual relations with two women who later filed rape and molestation complaints against him, claims that he has denied.

Assange was subjected to questioning by Swedish authorities and cleared of all accusations at the time. He could have left the country but stayed a while, in case authorities wanted to speak to him again.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest on 20 November 2010 by which time he was back in London. He went there because he did not trust the government in his home country, Australia.

Given its close ties with the US, Assange feared that Canberra would hand him over to Washington.

On 27 November, Assange surrendered to authorities and appeared before a Westminster judge. He was granted bail in December and supporters provided £240,000 in cash and sureties towards this end.

Lawyers from Sweden and Assange's side, among them the world-renowned Australian Geoffrey Robertson, wrangled over the issue until June 2012, when Swedish prosecutors asked the UK to extradite him.

Assange's lawyers fought the demand on the grounds that if he was sent to Sweden, then the US would seek to have him extradited for questioning.

On 19 June 2012, he jumped bail and entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking asylum. British police have since then blocked him from leaving.

After the recent pardon extended to whistleblower Chelsea Manning by outgoing US President Barack Obama, Assange indicated that he would honour an earlier statement that he would accept being extradited to the US if Manning was freed. Manning provided many documents and one shocking video about Iraq war atrocities to WikiLeaks.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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