The arrest of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday has created a divide among some Ecuadorian officials, some of whom feel the country's president betrayed the controversial figure by lifting his asylum.
According to The Washington Times, former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa blasted his successor, Lenin Moreno, as a "traitor" for handing Assange over to British authorities.
"The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange," Correa tweeted. “Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget."
Rafael Correa granted Assange political asylum in 2012 when he sought refuge in the embassy to escape U.S. prosecution. The Wikileaks founder continued his operation with little interruption throughout his stay there until Correa's vice president, Lenin Moreno, took power in 2017 shortly after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, during which Wikileaks published damaging emails from the DNC showing that the organization colluded with the media to rig the primary election against Bernie Sanders to secure Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination.
In a presentation before the Ecuadorian parliament on Thursday, foreign minister José Valencia listed as many as nine reasons why Assange's asylum had been lifted, the most prominent being his organization's meddling in international affairs.
"The list ranged from meddling in Ecuador’s relations with other countries to having to 'put up with his rudeness' for nearly seven years," according to The Guardian. "Valencia said Ecuador had been left with little choice but to end Assange’s stay in its London embassy following his 'innumerable acts of interference in the politics of other states' which put at risk the country’s relations with them."
Valencia also alleged that Assange frequently clashed with embassy staff by accusing them of frequently spying on him for the United States government. Throughout his seven-year stay in the embassy, Assange allegedly cost the Ecuadorian government $5.8 million in security services, plus another $400,000 on food, laundry, and medical bills.
The U.S. put in an extradition request in 2017 for Assange for his having allegedly conspired with Chelsea Manning to hack U.S. government databases in order to publish sensitive information. The underlying indictment states, "in March 2010, Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications."
As The Daily Wire reported on Thursday, the United States will have a difficult time actually convicting Assange by having to prove he aided Chelsea Manning in the hack on government computers rather than just publishing sensitive information, which would be covered by the First Amendment.
"The case against Assange, as it stands, seems weak, and hinges on whether Assange speaking to and 'encouraging' Chelsea Manning constitutes conspiracy to hack into and steal classified records," reported Emily Zanotti. "The DOJ document supposes that Assange was an accomplice to Manning's crimes, but the evidence seems to suggest that Assange's 'encouragement' may have involved little more than receiving Manning's stolen documents and requesting more."