With a corruption scandal - the revelations contained within the so-called INA papers - threatening to upend his administration, and criticism of his government intensifying ahead of a visit to Washington later this month, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno appears to be cracking down on opposition voices, including outspoken supporters of Julian Assange.
RT reports that an Ecuadorian judge has issued an Interpol 'Red Notice', an international arrest warrant to hold a suspect in pre-trial detention pending extradition, for Ricardo Patino, a former foreign minister who served under Rafael Correa.
Patino's alleged crime? Instigating supporters to close roads and take over public institutions in defiance of Moreno.
"The attorney general’s office began a criminal process against Ricardo Patino for the alleged crime of instigation," the office said in a statement on Thursday. "[Patino] had given a speech in which he instigated people to take over public institutions and close roads."
In addition to his alleged anti-government activities, Patino is being sought by the government because of his links to Swedish software developer Ola Bini, who was arrested last week on hacking charges related to his alleged relationship with Wikileaks.
To escape persecution, Patino fled the country Wednesday night, and is believed to be hiding in Peru.
The 64-year-old has been an especially vocal critic of Moreno's government, particularly over his decision to cancel Assange’s asylum and citizenship, and allowing UK police to enter the Ecuadorian embassy in London to take Assange into custody. "Worldwide shame," he tweeted, after Assange’s arrest. He accused Moreno of violating Ecuador's constitution, as well as international law by betraying Assange.
AL PAÍS | Somos víctimas de una feroz persecución que la realizan para ocultar la corrupción de Moreno y su círculo cercano #INAPapers. Vamos a luchar, a seguir luchando con la frente en alto. Aquí ➡ https://t.co/XhiJrSofjY— Ricardo Patiño (@RicardoPatinoEC) April 19, 2019
"We are victims of a fierce persecution that is carried out to hide the corruption of Moreno and his close circle," the renegade politician tweeted. "We are going to fight, to continue fighting, with our heads held high."
After being arrested earlier this month following seven years of safe harbor in the embassy, Assange now faces the possibility of extradition to the US, where he has been charged with conspiring to hack a government computer.