Ecuador hands over Julian Assange’s belongings to US

Ecuador hands over Julian Assange's belongings to US

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LONDON: Ecuador has begun giving the US some of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange’s possessions, including legal papers and electronic equipment, left behind by him after his seven-year stay in its London embassy.

The Latin American country’s foreign minister Jose Valencia authorised the seizure of materials and equipment earlier this month.

Assange, 47, was arrested on April 11 after being handed over to British authorities by Ecuador. He is serving a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh prison for skipping his extradition order.

The Australian national’s lawyer said the move was “completely unprecedented in the history of asylum”.

“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,” lawyer Aitor Martinez said.

The material that will be handed over to the US includes manuscripts, legal papers, medical records and electronic equipment.

Valencia said last week that the decision to share items with US authorities should be taken by the prosecutor’s office.

Wikileaks’ Editor-in-Chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said in a statement that there was “no doubt” that Ecuador had “tampered” with the belongings it had sent to the US.

The US is seeking Assange’s extradition from the UK over his alleged role in the release of classified military and diplomatic material by Wikileaks in 2010.

Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in the US.

He is accused of participating in one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets, which could result in a prison term of up to five years.

The whistleblower is already facing moves to extradite him to Sweden on rape charges.

In 2010, a Swedish woman accused Assange of rape after they met at a WikiLeaks conference in Stockholm.

Assange has always denied the allegations and sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London for seven years to avoid a British extradition order to Sweden.

The charges were dropped in 2017, but on Monday prosecutors issued a renewed request to hold Assange on suspicion of rape – a first step towards seeking his extradition.

Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, said in a statement a request had been filed with the Uppsala district court to have Assange detained in his absence.

She added that once the court had granted the request, she would then ask British authorities to transfer Assange to Sweden.

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