UK police stationed outside Ecuadorian embassy, waiting to see if Julian Assange will be expelled

Yesterday, Wikileaks tweeted that a source in the Ecuadorian government had told them Julian Assange would be expelled from the country’s embassy in London in a matter of hours or days.

So far that hasn’t happened, but the Associated Press reports that armed British police have taken up positions outside the embassy, waiting to see if Assange leaves:

The red-brick embassy building with white window frames and balconies was quiet, though a few protesters gathered outside. No embassy official commented on the WikiLeaks founder’s status, while British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Assange is a “free man” and can leave the embassy whenever he chooses…

Police said in a statement there is an active warrant for Assange’s arrest and that the police are “obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the Embassy.”…

Ecuador’s foreign ministry issued a statement late Thursday saying it wouldn’t comment on what it called “rumors, theories or conjectures.”

Later, a senior official told The Associated Press that no decision had been taken to expel Assange from the embassy.

So maybe it’s not going to happen after all? Maybe, but Wikileaks also retweeted this a couple of hours ago, which makes it sound like expulsion might still be on the table:

Assange has been hiding out in the embassy since 2012, trying to avoid being extradited to the United States. A year ago, the embassy cut off Assange’s internet access after Assange questioned the claim that Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia using a nerve agent.

The Ecuadorian government’s current anger with Assange has to do with the publication of the INA Papers, a collection of documents which appear to show an illegal money trail from a Chinese company which built a massive hydroelectric dam in Ecuador. From TeleSur:

Lawmaker Ronny Aleaga told reporters that he received a dossier anonymously filled with documents that will implicate Lenin Moreno and his family in alleged crimes of corruption, perjury and money laundering.

The documents are known as the “INA Papers” that links Moreno and the Chinese company Sinohydro that built the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric dam, which, according to the lawmaker, deposited US$18 million in the offshore company Recorsa.

Recorsa is linked to Ecuadorean businessman Conto Patiño Martinez who transferred money to more than 10 ghost companies in Panama including INA Investments Corp, whose real owner is Edwin Moreno Garces, brother of President Lenin Moreno, according to the leaked documents.

President Moreno has denied the allegations but his approval rating in a recent poll has dropped to 17%. The president was also upset that personal photos hacked from his phone were being circulated and some members of his government appeared to blame Wikileaks for circulating those photos. So there’s definitely a lot of tension between President Moreno and Assange but at least so far nothing dramatic has happened. If that changes today, I’ll update this post.

Here’s a look at the media circus outside the Ecuadorian Embassy: