LONDON – An Ecuadorian presidential candidate announced on Thursday that he will give the Wikileaks founder one month notice to abandon London’s Ecuador embassy if he wins the upcoming national elections.
Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso made the comments about Julian Assange in an interview with the United Kingdom’s daily newspaper “The Guardian.”
Lasso, of the center-right CREO party, thought it was time for the Australian journalist to abandon his diplomatic refuge due to the mounting cost of his protracted stay.
Lasso said Ecuadorian people had been paying an expense they had no reason to assume, adding he would kindly ask Assange to leave within 30 days in the event he becomes the South American nation’s next president.
Lasso is not the favorite candidate in the forthcoming elections due Feb. 19.
The journalist and whistle-blower, whose website published United States government classified information, sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid being extradited to Sweden where is accused of sex crimes – he fears he will be then extradited to the US and convicted.
On the other hand, Ecuador’s foreign affairs minister, Guillaume Long, said his country’s embassy in London must be one of the “most observed” legations on the planet and reminded of the journalist’s precarious living conditions.
Long told the “The Guardian” that they had done their best to make Assange’s stay as comfortable as possible, but with no outside space, garden or patio, he has spent his entire stay in a first-floor room in London where there is not a lot of sunlight.
Assange refuses to leave the building as he would be immediately arrested and extradited to Sweden where he is wanted for four alleged sex crimes which he denies.
Three of the counts have already expired, but the fourth, which accuses him of allegedly raping a woman in her sleep, will not expire until 2020.
Last month, Wikileaks announced that Assange was willing to be extradited to the US if former US president Barack Obama pardoned US soldier Chelsea Manning, who was jailed after she leaked US classified information to Wikileaks.
Before he left the White House, Obama agreed to sign the sentence commutation of Manning, who is due to be freed on May 17.