A source close to Ecuador’s government has reportedly confirmed that the country’s President Lenin Moreno has nearly reached a deal with the United Kingdom to hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London — “within the next several weeks.”
The Intercept’s investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald anonymously cited the source as making the revelation exclusively to the website on Saturday.
“Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks,” Greenwald wrote, citing information obtained from the source. “The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week.”
The reported settlement with British authorities is expected to be finalized during Moreno’s trip to London for a world disabilities summit on July 24, according to Greenwald.
Assange has taken shelter in Ecuador’s Embassy in central London since June 2012. He had been facing extradition to Sweden over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women.
The Australian founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks has rejected the accusations as politically motivated. Assange had said he feared Sweden might extradite him to the United States, where he could face criminal charges over WikiLeaks’ release of classified US documents.
Last May, Swedish prosecutors dropped their probe into the rape accusation against Assange. The Wikileaks founder has, however, remained inside the embassy in order to avoid extradition to the US.
His publication of thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents marked one of the largest information leaks in US history.
The Ecuadorian president described Assange earlier this year as a “hacker,” an “inherited problem” and a “stone in the shoe,” which has created “more than a nuisance” for his government.
Other media outlets had already begun speculating that a handover may be due.
In a report last Sunday, British newspaper The Times wrote that Moreno’s government had been in secret talks with the UK government in an effort to “evict” Assange from Ecuador’s London Embassy.
According to that report, Alan Duncan, the British minister of state for Europe and the Americas, was representing the UK in the talks. He has formerly called Assange “a miserable little worm” and demanded that he “face justice.”
In January, the British government rejected a request from Ecuador to grant diplomatic status to the whistleblower. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa has said Assange’s long-term stay in the country’s London Embassy is “untenable.”