Ecuador, which recently booted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from its embassy, may now be turning over the contents of Assange’s personal quarters to United States authorities, including a handful of manuscripts and piles of notes that might outline Assange’s criminal defense strategy.
The BBC reports that Ecuador is turning over “manuscripts, legal papers, medical records and electronic equipment,” and will reportedly allow American investigators to comb through Assange’s former home — a series of rooms inside the country’s London embassy — for pieces of evidence.
Ecuador;s government has not confirmed nor denied the report.
Wikileaks and Assange’s defense team say they are trying to block the effort, telling the Guardian and other media outlets that neither Assange’s lawyers nor independent United Nations watchdogs have been asked to be present at the turnover of Assange’s belongings, and that the effort by Ecuadorian officials to supply the U.S. with Assange’s personal effects amounts to an illegal search and seizure.
“Ecuador is committing a flagrant violation of the most basic norms of the institution of asylum by handing over all the asylee’s personal belongings indiscriminately to the country that he was being protected from,” one attorney for Assange said publicly Sunday.
Wikileaks said something similar in a statement through its acting editor-in-chief: “On Monday, Ecuador will perform a puppet show at the embassy of Ecuador in London for their masters in Washington, just in time to expand their extradition case before the UK deadline on 14 June. The Trump administration is inducing its allies to behave like it’s the wild west.”
Assange was evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy in London back in April, after Ecuadorian officials said the Wikileaks founder had finally tested their patience to the limit. Assange was reportedly living in filth and failing to obey basic rules about cleanliness and organization put in place by the Ecuadorian government. Assange supposedly sealed his fate when he Tweeted about South American politics, in defiance of a basic rule preventing him from meddling in foreign affairs while under self-imposed house arrest.
He has been in a London prison since then.
It’s not clear what motivated Ecuador to cooperate with American authorities, though it does seem like Ecuador has completely soured on the Wikileaks founder and is willing to cooperate in efforts to bring Assange to justice in the United States. Reports also indicate the Ecuador may be willing to back the United States in its battle to extradite Assange, so that Assange can stand trial in the U.S., ostensibly for facilitating espionage and publishing state secrets.
Interested parties have until June 14th to file a request to extradite Assange. Last week, only the United States had so far filed a claim, but over the weekend, Sweden also issued a demand for Assange, asking that the Wikileaks founder be held by British authorities until he could be returned to Stockholm to face sexual assault charges resulting from an encounter Assange had with a Swedish woman in 2010.
Sweden dropped the charges back in 2017, after it became clear that Assange intended to stay as long as possible in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Now that he’s been evicted, however, Sweden would like to try again.
If the British courts recognize Sweden’s petition to hold Assange, it may set up a tug of war between the Sweden and the United States over which country gets to prosecute Assange first.