The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, ordered the withdrawal on Thursday of additional security assigned to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has remained for almost six years.
The Australian took refuge in the small diplomatic headquarters in 2012 to avoid sexual abuse charges in Sweden. He rejects the charges and prosecutors have abandoned their investigation.
However, British authorities are still seeking his arrest.
“The President of the Republic, Lenin Moreno, has ordered that any additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London be withdrawn immediately,” the government said in a statement.”
From now on, it will maintain normal security similar to that of other Ecuadorian embassies,” the statement said.
Ecuador suspended Assange’s communication systems in March after his pointed political comments on Twitter.
Moreno has described Assange’s situation as “a stone in his shoe.”
The 46-year-old fears he will be extradited to the US if he leaves the embassy in Knightsbridge. In 2010, WikiLeaks published secret US military documents and diplomatic cables detailing alleged war crimes and human rights violations.
In March, Ecuador’s government cut off Assange’s internet connection after he complained about the arrest of a Catalan separatist politician on social media, despite promising not to interfere in other countries’ affairs while seeking refuge in the embassy.
The Guardian reported this week how the embassy employed an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, initially to support the Australian-born computer programmer, but that changed when Assange allegedly hacked the communications system within the embassy – something WikiLeaks denies.
The operation had the support of then Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa, the paper reported, adding that it has been wound down since new leader Lenin Moreno took power last year.
The security team recorded Assange’s daily activities and his interactions with embassy staff and visitors, including fellow hackers, activists and lawyers.
Ecuador’s government earlier suspended internet access for Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who since 2012 has lived in Ecuador’s Embassy in London, out of concern that he was harming its relationships with Britain and other European nations.
The decision set off a furious reaction from some Assange supporters. One of them, Kim Dotcom, an online renegade who founded a file-sharing site, urged supporters to gather outside the embassy in protest. The filmmaker Oliver Stone wrote on Twitter: “Free Julian Assange! Restore his internet connection!”
Ecuador’s government granted Mr. Assange citizenship in January, the latest step in a longstanding diplomatic standoff. But it said it had suspended Mr. Assange’s online communications on Tuesday because he had imperiled “the good relations that the country maintains with the United Kingdom, with the rest of the states of the European Union, and other nations” through his social-media messages.
The government did not provide specifics, but some speculated that the decision might have been related to the Western nations’ coordinated actions against Russia after the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. In a series of Twitter posts this week, Mr. Assange was critical of Western nations’ expulsions of Russian diplomats. Courtesy-BDnews24