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Ecuador president says Assange used London embassy for 'spying'

By Clyde Hughes
Ecuador president says Assange used London embassy for 'spying'
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives for a court hearing in London in 2012, seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex assault charges. Assange may again face those charges after his arrest last week. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

April 15 (UPI) -- Ecuador President Lenin Moreno said Monday WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was expelled from the embassy in London because he was using it as a center for spying.

Initially wanted by Swedish authorities, Assange lived for seven years at the embassy under asylum from Ecuador. Sweden dropped its charges but Assange remained in the embassy because of potential U.S. charges related to WikiLeaks disclosures. He was arrested Thursday after Ecuador pulled its offer of asylum, saying Assange violated conditions.

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"We cannot allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a center for spying," Moreno told The Guardian Monday. "This activity violates asylum conditions. Our decision is not arbitrary but is based on international law."

Moreno and other Ecuadorian officials accused Assange of interfering in the affairs of other states while at the embassy, abusing staffers and not taking care of his room and belongings.

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"Assange's attitude was absolutely reprehensible and outrageous after all of the protection provided by the Ecuadorian state for almost seven years," Moreno said. "He maintained constant improper hygienic behavior throughout his stay, which affected his own health and affected the internal climate of the diplomatic mission." 

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On Sunday, Assange's attorney Jennifer Robinson called some of the allegations "outrageous," and said they've been invented to justify Ecuador's actions last week.

"This man has been inside a room with no outside access," she said of claims Assange had exhibited poor hygiene. "Inside the embassy [it became] more difficult. The politics changed when Ecuador's political situation changed with a new leader."

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Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 under the administration of President Rafael Correa. Moreno took office in May 2017.

More than 70 British lawmakers last week urged the government to extradite Assange to Sweden, possibly to face a refiling of the sex assault charges there. Swedish prosecutors said they are looking at the possibility of reopening the case.

A British judge has said Assange will stay in jail until a May extradition hearing to determine if he will be sent to the United States on hacking charges. He's accused of cooperating with military whistle-blower Chelsea Manning in 2010 to leak classified military documents.

RELATED Chelsea Manning jailed for refusing to answer grand jury

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