Julian Assange Must Leave Embassy, Ecuador President Says

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will eventually need to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has lived under political asylum since 2012, the nation’s president, Lenin Moreno, declared during an event in Madrid on Friday, as reported by Reuters.

The statement followed a report from The Sunday Times last month that said Ecuador was in talks with U.K. officials over Assange’s future. Speculation began to mount that his time at the embassy was coming to an end. The WikiLeaks founder feared he would be extradited to the U.S. over his leaking of government secrets, emails and CIA-hacking tools.

Assange’s internet connection was recently cut. Moreno, who previously called the WikiLeaks founder a “hacker” and an “inherited problem,” confirmed this week that he had recently spoken to the British government about the ongoing situation, according to Reuters. He had visited the U.K. on July 23.

The U.S. intelligence community believes the whistle-blowing platform played a key role in the 2016 election-meddling campaign. WikiLeaks was used to spread stolen emails allegedly hacked by Russian intelligence. 

Assange's 2012 asylum request was granted by Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa. Assange entered the embassy after he was accused of sexual assault in Sweden, accusations he denied.

A controversial figure, the WikiLeaks chief played a part in Edward Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong in 2013 after the leaking of National Security Agency surveillance secrets.

In 2016, Assange spearheaded the release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, a close aide to Hillary Clinton. British officials have said they would arrest Assange for breaching prior bail conditions should he step outside the embassy's doors.

Appeals were made over the years for the WikiLeaks editor to get better access to health care; his time in the Knightsbridge building left him in a “dangerous” condition, doctors claimed.

Assange also clashed with Ecuador on several occasions after voicing his political opinions.

The anti-secrecy organization, founded in 2006, brushed off suggestions that it has ties to Russia.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions indicated last year that arresting Assange had become a “priority,” saying, “We’ve already begun to step up our efforts, and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.” Ex–CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

Pompeo, now U.S. secretary of state, said, “Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value. He relies on the dirty work of others to make himself famous. He is a fraud—a coward hiding behind a screen.” Before that, Pompeo shared links to WikiLeaks on social media.

The WikiLeaks Twitter account did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Assange Julian Assange, after speaking to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador, in London, on May 19, 2017. Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno said Assange will eventually need to leave the embassy, where he sought political asylum in 2012. Jack Taylor/Getty Images

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