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Julian Assange rejects UK-Ecuador deal for him to leave the embassy

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 06/12/2018 Harriet Alexander
Julian Assange standing in front of a brick building: Julian Assange, speaking on the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge in May 2017 © Peter Nicholls/Reuters Julian Assange, speaking on the balcony of the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge in May 2017

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Julian Assange's lawyer has rejected an agreement announced by Ecuador's president to see him leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London, after six years inside.

Lenin Moreno, the president of Ecuador, has made no secret of his wish to be rid of the WikiLeaks founder, who sought asylum inside the embassy in June 2012 and has not left since.

On Thursday Mr Moreno announced that a deal had been reached between London and Quito to allow Mr Assange, 47, to be released.

Video: Assange Has 'Sufficient Guarantees' From UK Government To Leave Embassy (GeoBeats)

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"The way has been cleared for Mr Assange to take the decision to leave in near-liberty," said Mr Moreno.

He did not specify what "near liberty" meant.

Mr Moreno earlier this year announced that he was severing Mr Assange's telephone and internet links, and in October said he was banning him from making "political statement" that jeopardised Ecuador's relations with other countries. Mr Assange then sued for a breach of his human rights.

From December, he was also due to pay for his own costs of food, medical care and laundry, in yet another sign of the growing impatience of the Ecuadorean government.

Mr Moreno added that Britain had guaranteed that the Australian would not be extradited to any country where his life is in danger.

But Mr Assange's lawyer, Barry Pollack, told The Telegraph that the deal was not acceptable.

The legal team have long argued that they will not accept any agreement which risks his being extradited to the United States.

Gallery: Julian Assange - A timeline in pictures (Photos)

Last year Jeff Sessions, the former US attorney general, said arresting Mr Assange was a priority.

In November a filing error revealed that Mr Assange faced charges in the US - although it was not clear what those charges were.

Many speculate they would be connected to the release of classified information, and Mr Assange fears a long prison sentence in the US for what his supporters say is publishing information in the public interest.

"The suggestion that as long as the death penalty is off the table, Mr Assange need not fear persecution is obviously wrong," said Mr Pollack. 

"No one should have to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information. 

"Since such charges appear to have been brought against Mr Assange in the United States, Ecuador should continue to provide him asylum."

Mr Assange fled to the embassy when he was wanted for questioning in Sweden about sexual assault allegations. He always maintained his innocence and Swedish authorities later said they had dropped their extradition request.

He does, however, still face charges in the UK of skipping bail.


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