- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A British judge’s ruling upholding an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange won’t stop Ecuador from shielding him within its London embassy, its president affirmed afterwards.

President Lenin Moreno told reporters Tuesday that Ecuador will continue to protect the wanted WikiLeaks chief regardless of a decision handed down earlier in the day maintaining an arrest warrant issued for him in 2012.

“This was a problem we inherited,” Mr. Moreno, Ecuador’s president since May 2017, told international reporters assembled in Quito Tuesday. “It is a problem that would be uncomfortable for any country in the current circumstances. Nevertheless, we made a commitment from day one to protect the life of Mr. Assange, which we believe is at risk.

“The court’s decision affects us, of course, but it’s not determining our decisions to keep providing protection to Assange under the international amnesty laws,” Mr. Moreno said.

Mr. Assange, a 46-year-old Australian native, entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in 2012 in lieu of being extradited to Sweden to be questioned over allegations of sexual assault. He was granted political asylum that August by Mr. Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa, but has resided within the embassy ever since in lieu of likely being arrested by British authorities upon exiting.

Swedish prosecutors ended their investigating into Mr. Assange last year, but British authorities argue he was under house arrest appealing his extradition when he entered the embassy and should be apprehended for having breached his bail conditions, prompting the legal challenge decided Tuesday at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

“I am not persuaded the warrant should be withdrawn,” Judge Emma Arbuthnot wrote in her five-page ruling.

Attorneys for Mr. Assange have since filed a separate bid asking the judge to decide if upholding the arrest warrant is in the “public interest.” She’s expected to make her decision Tuesday.

Mr. Assange has previously said he fears he’ll be extradited to the U.S. if arrested and ultimately charged in connection with publishing classified military and diplomatic documents through his website WikiLeaks dating back to at least 2010. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that arresting Mr. Assange was a “priority” for the Justice Department, but federal prosecutors have failed so far to unseal any charges against him.

A United Nations working group previously concluded that Mr. Assange’s living situation within the Ecuadorian Embassy amounted to “arbitrary detention” in violation of international norms. Ecuador recently naturalized Mr. Assange in an effort to resolve the impasse, and its government continues seeking mediation with “important people” over his fate, Mr. Moreno said last month.

Mr. Assange did not return messages seeking comment.


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