Ecuador's president is lashing out at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange even as he contends his government is working behind the scenes to help him out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Lenin Moreno said in a televised interview on Sunday that Assange had become "more than a nuisance" after he violated terms of his asylum by interfering in other countries' political affairs.
Ecuador granted citizenship to Assange this month in an unsuccessful attempt to provide him diplomatic immunity so he could evade arrest in Britain. Moreno said other countries and "important personalities" he didn't name are working to mediate a solution.
Assange and his advisers are preparing to try to use Ecuador's decision to grant him diplomatic status to force Britain to declare him persona non grata and expel him, a source close to Assange said today.
He and his lawyers assert that if he did leave the Embassy, US authorities would then produce criminal charges against him and seek his extradition to the United States, which they believe could result in a lengthy prison term for the WikiLeaks founder.
The source close to Assange said that his legal team were now working on filing a legal case with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, seeking to have Assange's Ecuadorean diplomatic status affirmed under international law.
Britain's Foreign Office declined to comment.
Ecuador's Foreign Ministry said that only the foreign minister, who is travelling in Chile, was authorised to comment on the Assange standoff.
And as part of their continuing criminal investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks, investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation recently sought new information about years-old contacts between WikiLeaks and Chelsea Manning, the former US Army private who leaked the website thousands of classified US government documents.
Assange in 2012 sought refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex-related claims. Sweden dropped the case but Assange still faces arrest in Britain for jumping bail.
The WikiLeaks founder has strained the patience of his hosts since taking up the offer of asylum made by then-president Rafael Correa in 2012.
He was publicly reprimanded for interfering in the 2016 US election after publishing hacked emails from the campaign team of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
More recently, he drew the ire of Correa's successor, President Moreno, when he used Twitter to pump out messages of support for Catalonia's independence drive.
Moreno was forced to respond to complaints from the Spanish government.
- AP and Daily Mail