Ecuador is working to finalize an agreement to withdraw its asylum protection from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in order to throw him out of the country's embassy in London and turn him over to British authorities, journalist Glenn Greenwald reported on Saturday.
On Friday, Ecuador President Lenin Moreno was in London, where he was to speak at the Global Disabilities Summit, Greenwald reports on The Intercept, but the actual purpose was to meet with British officials to finalize the agreement to turn Assange over.
The WikiLeaks founder has been at Ecuador's embassy in London since 2012. Moreno will also travel to Madrid, notes Greenwald, where Spanish officials are angry over Assange's denouncing of Spain's government over human rights against protesters.
Ecuador earlier this year blocked Assange's internet access, notes Greenwald, blaming the decision on Spain's anger about Catalonia and the protesters.
Assange could have his asylum withdrawn as early as this week, according to a source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and Moreno's office. The source said the president is close to finalizing the agreement to hand Assange over to British officials.
Greenwald noted that it's unlikely Moreno would seek any guarantees from British officials like protecting Assange from extradition to the United States to face threats from President Donald Trump's administration to prosecute him and take down WikiLeaks.
If Assange is turned over to UK officials, it's likely he'll continue to be imprisoned. Greenwald argued that the WikiLeaks founder has been "effectively imprisoned for eight years" at the Ecuadorian embassy, even though he's never been convicted of a crime.
Assange currently is under an arrest warrant from 2021 for failure to surrender, filed when he obtained asylum from Ecuador rather than returning to court for a hearing concerning his extradition to Sweden.
He has already spent 10 days in Wandsworth Prison and then was ordered under house arrest for 550 days at a supporter's home. His attorney, Jen Robinson, said he'd argue for prison time already served if his client is sentenced for the failure to support charge.
However, British authorities could argue that Assange's evasion rose above a simple failure to surrender charge, and that he could be charged for contempt of court, which could bring a two-year sentence.
Swedish prosecutors already dropped their investigation last year into sexual assault allegations that had been filed against Assange.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration wanted to prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks, but backed away because of the trouble it could cause for U.S. newspapers who reported on him. The Trump administration, though, has no such concerns, noted Greenwald.
Last April, then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is now the secretary of State, said WikiLeaks is a "non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia," adding that "we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us."
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also promised to consider the prosecution of media outlets publishing classified information.
"It would be incredibly shrewd for Sessions to lay the foundation for doing so by prosecuting Assange first, safe in the knowledge that journalists themselves – consumed with hatred for Assange due to personal reasons, professional jealousies and anger over the role they believed he played in 2016 in helping Hillary Clinton lose – would unite behind the Trump DOJ and in support of its efforts to imprison Assange," said Greenwald.
If the United States indicts Assange, then it could request the UK extradite him to face trial, which means the UK could keep him in prison for years.
Assange could resist extradition, but that could take some time to decide as well, leaving him behind bars in Great Britain for at least another year, said Greenwald, meaning he has "essentially been punished" by process, despite never being convicted of a crime.
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