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Britain and Ecuador discuss Wikileaks founder's fate

By
Sommer Brokaw
British and Ecuadorean leaders are holding talks on the fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who may soon have to leave an embassy in Britain after staying there six years. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
British and Ecuadorean leaders are holding talks on the fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange who may soon have to leave an embassy in Britain after staying there six years. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

July 28 (UPI) -- Officials in Britain and Ecuador are discussing the fate of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador's British embassy for six years.

Assange, 47, who has rarely seen daylight in the years he's been held in asylum, could face expulsion soon from the embassy, a source told The Times.

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Government officials in both countries are pondering the eviction of Assange, who gained notoriety for publishing thousands of U.S.-classified documents on the website, WikiLeaks, from Ecuador's London embassy, where he has been in asylum since 2012 and gained citizenship late last year.

Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno told the BBC Friday that he was never "in favor" of Assange's activities, and that both countries were holding talks.

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The British government has become more concerned about his welfare as Ecuador cut off his internet connection in March over concerns about his use of social media interfering with diplomatic relations and cut back extra security in May after spending $5 million on protection costs.

"It is our wish that this is brought to an end, and we would like to make the assurance that if he were to step out of the embassy, he would be treated humanely and properly," British Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan told parliament last month.

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"The first priority would be to look after his health, which we think is deteriorating."

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Ecuador granted political asylum to Assange in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. Assange faced a count of unlawful coercion and two counts of sexual molestation, which expired in 2015 due to statutes of limitations under Swedish law, while the investigation for one remaining rape allegation, which had an expiration date of 2020, was dropped in May 2017.

Although the Swedish investigation has been dropped, Assange fears an arrest for bail breach in the sexual assault case would allow him to be extradited to the United States for publishing the classified documents on Wikileaks. The website grabbed worldwide attention in April 2010 when it released footage of U.S. soldiers fatally shooting at least 18 civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

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