Ecuador's Lenin Moreno: "Julian Assange repeatedly violated asylum terms"

Ecuador's Lenin Moreno: "Julian Assange repeatedly violated asylum terms"

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Originally published in Abc.es. Read here.

- Was the decision to withdraw asylum from Mr. Assange motivated by his interference in the Catalan independence crisis in Spain?

-Ecuador is a country that respects the principles that govern democracy, so we are careful not to intervene in internal affairs of other countries. In the case of Mr. Assange, we have witnessed the permanent interference with national and international policy issues, in the cases of the United States, the Vatican, France and Spain. We were excessively tolerant of Assange, but he did not have the will to remain silent on political issues nor did he accept the rules on asylum. It was a sovereign decision taken in strict adherence to international law and in the framework of respect for human rights.

-Were Assange's political campaigns a reason for your decision?

-The diplomatic asylum is a figure of international law and in Latin America it is an institution based on different principles, among which is the non-intervention in the politics of other states.

- Will Ecuador's relationship with countries in whose political life Mr. Assange has interfered, such as Spain or the US, improve?

-We have always tried to have the best relationship with them. The problem with Mr. Assange was not created by us but the previous government [of Rafael Correa].

- What rules did Mr. Assange breach in his seven years of asylum?

-Julian Assange repeatedly violated provisions of the conventions on diplomatic asylum of Havana and Caracas, as well as the special protocol of coexistence accepted and signed between the Ecuadorian Embassy and Mr. Assange himself.

-Can you offer an example?

-You can't get to a house that welcomes you with affection, that feeds you and that takes care of you to finally denounce the owner of the house. We witnessed permanent inappropriate behavior. In that sense, in October 2018 we established a coexistence protocol that sought to prevent acts of misconduct by the asylee; however, Assange violated this protocol by continuing with several incidents. Assange maintained inadequate hygienic behaviors that affected his own health, in addition to the internal environment of the diplomatic mission. But the most serious was his permanent political interference in internal affairs of other countries. We are a tolerant government, but the asylum situation became unsustainable by Mr. Assange himself.

- Can your decision be challenged in Ecuador?

- A vast majority of the country have already said in opinion polls that they agre with the decision, for a very simple reason: he violated the asylum conventions, flagrantly and emphatically. He offended the country, its people and its government. He said it was an insignificant country. I do not want to repeat the exact word he used, but he expressed it in practice by smearing the walls of the Embassy with his faeces, which gave the measure of the little respect he had for the country that welcomed him.

- What did the protocol signed in 2017 between the Ecuadorian embassy and Mr. Assange entail?

-My government established a special protocol for living together with the objective of preventing acts of misconduct. It was accepted and both parties signed this protocol. Assange subsequently failed to comply and the incidents remained and even worsened.

- You say that Mr. Assange’s behavior worsened in the recent months?

-It is true that in recent months Mr. Assange developed a very aggressive campaign and even filed legal complaints against the country that isolated, attended and helped him. A lawsuit was filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The court rejected the claim because it lacked grounds and gave the reason to our country.

- Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has described Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks as an instrument at the service of interference campaigns based, among other places, in Russia. Do you agree?

-What is clear is that we could not allow our country to become a center of operation for groups that seek to affect the institutions of other countries and affect the right to privacy of citizens. Today we have a firm investigation into the presence of hackers that also operated in Ecuadorian territory. I would not like to issue a value judgment in an investigation process that is being carried out.

- Did you inform the US beforehand of your decision?

-No, we did not give advance notice to anybody. We are a sovereign country.

- But you spoke with the United Kingdom, given the fact that the London Metropolitan Police knew when to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy…

- We request to the United Kingdom the guarantee that Assange would not be delivered in extradition to a country where it could suffer torture or death penalty. In three diplomatic notes that have been made public, in March 2018, August 2018 and the most recent one on April 3, 2019, the British Government confirmed that Julian Assange would not be given extradition to a country where he may suffer death penalty.

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