Ecuador’s new President Lenin Moreno described WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as a “hacker” but said he would continue to receive asylum in the South American country’s embassy in London.
“Mr. Assange is a hacker. That’s something we reject, and I personally reject,” Moreno told journalists on Monday. “But I respect the situation he is in, which calls for respect of his human rights, but we also ask that he respects the situation he is in.”
Moreno’s tone is a sharp break from that of his predecessor Rafael Correa, who had said Assange was a “journalist and granted him asylum in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. And Moreno’s right-wing opponent in the election had promised to kick Assange out of the embassy if he won.
Since taking power, Moreno has also warned Assange “not to intervene in the politics” of Ecuador or its allies.
Assange, who denies the allegations, feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.
Even though Sweden dropped the charges earlier this month, authorities in London have warned Assange that he would be arrested if he left the embassy that his been his home for five years.