Ecuador’s new president says Julian Assange can stay at embassy

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Ecuador’s new president Lenin Moreno, who was critical of Julian Assange during his election campaign, said Monday that the founder of WikiLeaks will be allowed to stay at the country’s embassy in London.

Moreno, of the left-wing PAIS Alliance, called Assange a “hacker” during a conversation with local journalists. Moreno took office last week to succeed Rafael Correa, a member of the same party, who called Assange a journalist.

“Mr Assange is a hacker. That’s something we reject and that I in particular personally reject,” Moreno said, as quoted by the AFP news agency. Nonetheless, Moreno said he would respect the situation which Assange is currently in.

“It seems the British government is not going to grant safe passage, meaning that Mr Assange can continue living in the Ecuadorian embassy, and we will respect that condition,” said Moreno, who previously warned Assange not to intervene in the politics of countries which are friendly to Ecuador.

Assange shared the news on his official Twitter account but took offense with the president’s remarks, writing: “Who is misadvising [Lenin Moreno]? Saying that I am not allowed to ‘talk about the politics of any country’ then today slandering me as a ‘hacker’?”

WikiLeaks releases stolen footage and documents which it obtains through third parties, but the organization has not been accused of hacking.

Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June 2012 after the UK’s top court approved his extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning over rape allegations. The Ecuadorian government later granted political asylum to allow Assange to stay inside the compound, beyond the reach of British police.

Earlier this month, Swedish prosecutors announced that they had decided to drop both the arrest warrant and the rape investigation. But British police said Assange would still be arrested if he leaves the embassy, citing a British warrant which was issued after he failed to surrender for his extradition to Sweden.

In addition, the United Kingdom has refused to say whether it has received an extradition request from the United States.

The accusations are unrelated to Assange’s work for the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which unleashed a diplomatic scandal for the United States when it began releasing classified documents. Assange has claimed that the allegations are politically-linked, arguing that the sexual encounters in Sweden were consensual.

The accusations came just months after WikiLeaks’ first big scoop in April 2010, when it released a classified video which showed a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed several unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists. Assange said in earlier interviews that he had been told to expect “dirty tricks” from the Pentagon, including “sex traps” to ruin his reputation.

More recently, WikiLeaks published stolen emails relating to the presidential campaign of former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This caused Ecuador to temporarily cut Assange’s internet access at the embassy, citing its policy not to intervene in the internal affairs of other states.

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