A heavy police presence could be seen outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in the early hours of Friday after WikiLeaks issued an alert the evening prior saying Julian Assange "will be expelled" in a matter of "hours to days" from the place of his asylum and safe haven from authorities since 2012. WikiLeaks said it was tipped off by two "high level" Ecuadorian government sources who described the expulsion as imminent.
Supporters as well as news crews also gathered across the street from the embassy, at a moment the Ecuadorian government seems to have run out of patience on the back of the so-called of the INA Papers scandal, involving key allegations that Ecuadorian president Lenín Moreno enriched himself from an offshore account in Panama, something he's vehemently denied.
WikiLeaks says Moreno is attempting to generate a "false pretext" for ending Assange's asylum on the legal technicality that "conditions" have been broken. This follows Moreno telling The Guardian this week in an interview that "We should ensure Mr. Assange’s life is not at risk but he’s violated the agreement we have with him so many times.”
Well-known UK based journalist John Pilger immediately called for WikiLeaks supporters to "fill the street outside the embassy and protect him" as well as for the world to "show solidarity with a courageous man".
Overnight a small group of supporters began holding a protest vigil in front of the embassy, with some placing LED lights reading “NO EXPULSION” on the sidewalk, before the display along with tents were dismantled by police.
Both UK police and Ecuador's foreign ministry have denied that there's a move to expel Assange from the diplomatic compound. According to the AP:
Police said in a statement there is an active warrant for Assange’s arrest and that the police are “obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.”
Police withdrew the round-the-clock guard outside the embassy in October 2015 after more than three years in favor of what the service called a “covert” approach.
Ecuadorian officials meanwhile said the foreign ministry wouldn’t comment on what it called “rumors, theories or conjectures.”
WikiLeaks has repeatedly denied that Assange was behind exposing scandals and the resulting domestic pressures President Moreno's tenure has been dogged by lately. Instead the government leaks and transparency organization has said Moreno is seeking "a false pretext" and is ready to "yield to US pressure".
BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told @WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within "hours to days" using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext--and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.https://t.co/adnJph79wq— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 4, 2019
UK police and surveillance teams have been camped outside the embassy 24/7 ever since he first entered the building in 2012 and was given asylum there while facing extradition to Sweden on assault charges, which many believe was a classic "honey trap" scenario orchestrated by the CIA or another western intelligence agency, so that he could eventually be transferred to US detention.
WikiLeaks reminded followers that Chelsea Manning is still in US custody after returning to prison a month ago: “US whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who the US government re-jailed a month ago to coerce her into a secret interrogation, as part of government efforts to prosecute WikiLeaks, was moved out of solitary after filing appeals case,” WikiLeaks stated.
As we suggested previously, though we've heard 'days if not hours' before in terms of Assange's pending expulsion from the embassy, the combination of WikiLeaks' 'high level source' and Moreno's motive suggests it's actually happening this time.
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Ruptly has a livestream outside the embassy: