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Ecuador attempted to move Julian Assange to Moscow embassy, documents reveal

UK Foreign Office vetoed plan to give Wikileaks founder diplomatic status

Peter Stubley
Wednesday 17 October 2018 16:04 BST
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Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy - a timeline

Ecuador attempted to get Wikileaks founder Julian Assange out the UK by giving him a diplomatic post in Moscow, official documents have revealed.

The plan, set into motion shortly before last Christmas, saw the 47-year-old Australian appointed as a “political counsellor” at the South American country’s embassy in London with a monthly salary of $2,000 (£1,500).

The country then applied for a diplomatic identity card for him.

But the plan fell apart when British authorities vetoed his diplomatic status on 21 December because they did "not consider Mr Julian Assange to be an acceptable member of the mission.”

An eight-page memo setting out the manoeuvring was published by Ecuador's foreign minister Paola Vintimilla, who opposes her government’s decision to grant Assange citizenship.

"I will not allow this game of misinformation," she said in a statement. "From today all the documentation that I have on this process will be sent to any citizen that requires it."

The Russian Embassy in London, which has already rejected allegations that it was involved in a plan to smuggle Mr Assange out of the UK, declined to comment.

It has however indicated that: “Russia is always happy to welcome international guests if they arrive in a lawful manner and with good intentions.”

Mr Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy since June 2012, when he sought political asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about rape allegations.

Although that investigation was dropped last year, Mr Assange still faces a UK charge for skipping bail and he fears he will be deported to the US over WikiLeaks’ release of 500,000 secret military files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His relationship with the Russia is also under scrutiny following allegations Russian spies provided Wikileaks with the leaked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign in a bid to help elect Donald Trump.

Mr Assange has denied receiving the files from the Russian government or backing the Trump campaign, although the president’s son Donald Trump Jr published his exchange of messages with Wikileaks in September 2017.

Earlier this week Ecuador set new house rules for the Wikileaks founder that include banning him from making political statements and ordering him to take better care of his cat.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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