New Ecuador president calls WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a ‘hacker’, but says he can still stay at embassy
Ecuador’s new President Lenin Moreno described WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a “hacker”, but said he could still stay at the country’s embassy in London where he has been residing since 2012.
Moreno, who took office last week, said on Monday that he would “personally reject” Assange, but he respected “the situation he is in.”
“Mr. Assange is a hacker,” Moreno told journalists, Reuters reports. “That’s something we reject, and I personally reject. But I respect the situation he is in, which calls for respect of his human rights, but we also ask that he respects the situation he is in.”
Earlier, Moreno warned Assange “not to intervene in the politics” of Ecuador or that of its allies.
“His status does not allow him to talk about the politics of any country, let alone ours,” he said.
Moreno’s tone is markedly different from that of his predecessor Rafael Correa who previously called Assange a “journalist”. His right-wing presidential competitor Guillermo Lasso, on the other hand, vowed to kick him out of the embassy if he won.
Correa granted Assange political asylum in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations – charges that the 45-year-old Australian national denied.
Assange also feared that Sweden would extradite him to the US to face espionage charges over the publication of thousands of highly classified military, diplomatic and political documents in a series of major leaks.
During the presidential race last year, WikiLeaks dumped thousands of embarrassing emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign advisor John Podesta’s account as well as other Democratic officials. The website also recently published a series of leaks under the title “Vault 7” detailing the CIA’s alleged hacking tools and cyberweapons used to break into various smartphones, smart TVs and operating systems.
However, Sweden dropped its 7-year-old rape probe earlier in May. British law enforcement has said that he would still be arrested over other charges should he step out of the Ecuadorean embassy.
“It seems the British government is not going to grant safe passage, meaning that Mr Assange can continue living in the Ecuadoran embassy, and we will respect that condition,” Moreno said.
Assange responded to Moreno’s comments via Twitter questioning: “Who is misadvising @Lenin?”
“Saying that I am not allowed to ‘talk about the politics of any country’ then today slandering me as a ‘hacker’?” he tweeted.
In Spanish, he tweeted that publishing evidence of corruption is not hacking and said he is a “journalist and editor.” He noted that even the US does not refer to him as a hacker.
Last week, he said if WikiLeaks happens to receive evidence of corruption, it will be published by the whistle-blowing outfit.