A lawyer for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has rejected Ecuador’s offer for the publisher to leave the London embassy under the guarantee that he won’t face the death penalty, leaving open potential criminal persecution.
“The suggestion that as long as the death penalty is off the table, Mr. Assange need not fear persecution is obviously wrong,” Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollock, told the Telegraph while commenting on the deal with the UK announced by the Ecuador President Lenin Moreno on Thursday.
The agreement envisages certain safeguards for Assange that he won’t face the death penalty if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London, which has sheltered the famous fugitive since 2012.
Moreno said that Ecuador had received written assurances from the UK that Assange will not be extradited to any country where he might be put to death. Moreno, who has repeatedly indicated that he would like to get rid of Assange, whom he called “more than a nuisance,” said the deal struck with the UK is “a path” for Assange to “exit into near freedom.”
Moreno however, did not elaborate on how “near” that freedom would be, considering Assange is still sought in the UK on bail violation charges dating back to 2012. The UK authorities reportedly told Ecuador that the maximum sentence for the minor offence will not exceed six months.
Being spared from capital punishment does not mean that Assange is safe from getting extradited and going on trial in the US for releasing troves of US diplomatic cables – something Pollock is not OK with.
“No one should have to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information,” the lawyer told the Telegraph.
Assange exposed some 750,000 of classified military documents provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The documents shed light on the abuse and indiscriminate killings by US soldiers, among other revealing information about US military practices.
It was recently revealed that Assange has already been charged in the US. The bombshell was found through an unrelated case handled by a US attorney’s office in Virginia. While the reported charges remain sealed, they may include espionage, conspiracy, government property theft and others.
“Since such charges appear to have been brought against Mr. Assange in the United States, Ecuador should continue to provide him asylum,” Pollack said.
The secret-spilling site itself did not welcome Moreno’s “generous” offer, either.
In a tweet, WikiLeaks called Moreno’s proposal a “pathetic attempt to divert attention” from the recent report of him trying to “illegally sell Assange to the US for debt relief.”
Editorial comment: Pathetic attempt to divert attention from yesterday’s NYTtimes story that president Moreno tried to illegally sell Assange to the U.S. for debt relief. Mr Assange is a recognized political refugee–not a slave to be sold for cash. https://t.co/lUxn2lyVO2
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) December 6, 2018
In its attack on Moreno, WikiLeaks referred to a report by the New York Times, according to which the Ecuadorian President sought to use Donald Trump’s disgraced ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort as an intermediary to turn over Assange to the US. Under the terms of the agreement, Manafort would have had his debts cleared in return.
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