Ecuador is planning to withdraw asylum protection for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and evict him from its UK embassy in London amid “significant pressure” from the United States, according to reports.
Lenin Moreno, Ecuador's president, met with UK officials in London on Friday to finalize the agreement and hand Assange over to British authorities, according to The Intercept, an online news publication.
Assange may be expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as early as this week, the report said, citing American journalist Glen Greenwald..
He was granted asylum by Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Corra, after he took refuge in the country’s embassy in London in 2012.
Assange first came to the embassy when he faced a warrant for arrest following allegations of sexual assault and rape from the Swedish government. He has denied the allegations, and the investigation was closed last year.
However, the 47-year-old Australian computer programmer has stayed in the embassy out of concern that he would be extradited to the US to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents that were leaked by American whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
WikiLeaks has also been at the center of the FBI investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
UK Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan has called Assange “a miserable little worm” and demanded that he “face justice.”
Sources close to Assange, however, say he himself was not aware of the secret talks between Ecuador and the UK, but believe America is piling “significant pressure” on Ecuador to hand him over.
They say Washington has threatened Quito with blocking a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if Assange is not removed from the embassy.