If Rafael Correa returns to Ecuador “he goes to jail, which is where he should be,” says President Moreno
BBC.- Lenin Moreno seems to have won two weighty enemies since he is president of Ecuador: his predecessor in office, Rafael Correa, and the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. The president surprised the world on Thursday by revoking the asylum that Correa had granted Assange, which ended his stay of almost seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and allowed the British police to arrest him.
Assange was found guilty of violating the terms of bail that had been granted in 2010, when he took refuge in the embassy to avoid his extradition to Sweden accused of rape, something he rejects.
In an interview with BBC Mundo, Moreno assures that Assange “practically turned the embassy into a center of international espionage and computer terrorism”, breaking the norms of coexistence and even staining the walls of the diplomatic headquarters with his feces.
Now Assange is also facing an extradition request from the United States for alleged conspiracy to hack into a government computer to achieve a massive leak of classified information from this country.
Correa, on the other hand, has faced an arrest warrant from his country since last year for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of an opponent in 2012.
However, Correa considers that the case represents a political persecution against him by the Ecuadorian authorities and Interpol denied an order to capture him and extradite him from Belgium, where he resides.
What follows is a summary of the interview that Moreno gave to BBC Mundo in the framework of his visit to Washington:
At what exact moment did you make the decision to withdraw the diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange?
It is something that has been accumulated. We have expressed from the first moment of our government our desire to be tolerant and respectful of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. And so we have behaved. So much so that we have even discarded the “gag law”, making profound reforms and allowing freedom of expression to really exist.
Many topics were accumulated. Remember that Mr. Julian Assange has violated all conventions. The principles that were established in the conventions of Havana, Caracas, Vienna, have all been violated by him.
It is his behavior, assaulting guards, verbally and physically attacking employees of the embassy, and also giving instructions to their organization WikiLeaks to violate something as elementary as it is not to intervene in the politics of other countries, which must be fulfilled by all States.
In announcing your decision you said that WikiLeaks “threatened” the government of Ecuador. Can you explain it?
Yes, of course, that is even recorded. He threatened the government, the people of the embassy, the country. And there are the consequences of the threat: 40 million cyber attacks that have come from Brazil, Austria, Canada, the United States and Ecuador itself, addressed to our Foreign Ministry, the internal revenue system, private banking, and so on.
That’s the kind of behavior they have. It really is not journalism under any circumstances, but cyber terrorism.
Some argue that you withdrew Assange’s asylum after photos of your intimate life were published and WikiLeaks published information linking his brother to the formation of an offshore company. Is it like that?
Any Ecuadorian who is not in government activity can form an offshore company. I have shown with statements and documents that this company has never belonged to me, that I have no relationship with it.
With regard to a department in which I supposedly spent holidays, we have also verified with statements from the same people who live in the apartments that this is not a luxury apartment, that I do not know it, that I have never been there and of course, with the respective document, which does not belong to me.
Do you know that Assange was behind that leak?
Oh no, it’s not necessarily why we take away the asylum.
It is because they were accumulating several negative experiences, including the threat he made against Ecuador and the world, saying that he was going to activate “points” at the moment when the right to asylum was taken away from him.
You have accused former President Rafael Correa of being behind the dissemination of some of these complaints against him. Do you think that Correa coordinated with Assange at some point?
Do not have any doubt. It is typical of former President Correa’s behavior to form those webs, those cobwebs to try to entangle people, to try to discredit them. He did it every Saturday on his Saturday Broadcasts.
Not only that, but now that he proclaims freedom of expression, we must remind him that he imprisoned journalists, persecuted journalists, sued the media with extremely large sums. And, of course or, his servile, obsequious justice resulted in judgments in his favor.
But do you know that there was some coordination between Assange and Correa to destabilize his government as he points out?
We have almost all the evidence. At this moment there are three hackers in Ecuador that are being investigated. One of them is under preventive detention. And we have all the memories that are being analyzed in order to detect the relationships that this hacker has had.
It is important to emphasize that a key person of the policy of Mr. Correa, Ricardo Patiño, has traveled permanently with this hacker to several places of the world, coinciding sometimes in the same plane, in the same seats and even one day for the other, maybe to mislead a little.
They are linked and we will discover it and of course we will expose it to the media.
You also said that you requested and obtained from the British government the guarantee that Assange would not be handed over to a country where he could face the death penalty or torture. Did you seek any specific guarantee that you would not be extradited to the United States?
Well, it’s the commitment of the British government. We as respectful as we are of human rights, to the life and integrity of people, we requested three times to the British government and he answered us with letters also about the fact that under no circumstances was he going to extradite him to any country in which may be tortured or suffer the death penalty.
USA has already filed an indictment against him for conspiracy to hack into a government computer. How would Ecuador see that he was eventually extradited to the US?
It is not the United States we have to ask. We had to ask where the Embassy of Ecuador is located, which is the British kingdom.
We should ask them if they were going to extradite or not in those circumstances. What other countries do is already a matter for each one.
But he discards and does not want Assange to be extradited to the United States …
That is the commitment we got from the British kingdom and we hope that the British kingdom will fulfill it.
You point out that it was a sovereign decision of Ecuador, but in addition to discussing these terms with the British government he also dealt with US authorities on the Assange affair. For example, with Vice President Mike Pence, the White House confirmed last year. How were those conversations?
Very sharp at the time when Vice President Pence raised the issue, I told him that this was a sovereign decision of Ecuador.
What specifically did you propose?
He said what he thought about the Assange issue. And I told him that this was a sovereign decision that we were going to talk of course with her legal attorney, with the British kingdom and Ecuador. And with Mr. Assange, of course.
What do you say to those who think that with the arrest of Assange he loses freedom of expression around the world?
I believe that under no circumstances, if freedom of expression is something driven, purely ideological, remote control to say it in some way, I think that freedom of expression is not lost.
Freedom of expression has to be broad.
The argument is that, if Assange actually comes to be judged and convicted for hacking a US government computer and disseminating information considered to be secret, that can be used by other countries to make decisions against the media…
I really do not think so. It is not with the United States with whom we have talked.
You have pointed out Assange’s behavior, aggressive attitudes with embassy staff and assaults on guards. Can you give some concrete examples?
Yes, we have the evidence of that.
Something that worries us much more is the little importance that it gave to the protocols that we had signed. And what a pity to say at the moment, but even smeared the walls of the embassy with his feces. Played football while there were people waiting. He was on his skateboard in smaller cloths, etcetera. You can already imagine how tolerant we have been.
But that has reached its limit and that is why we have finished that asylum, (a decision) that also has 80% approval from Ecuadorians, because they knew all the violations that Mr. Assange did to the protocols that had been signed.
You have also said that Assange tried to use the Ecuadorian embassy in London as an “espionage center” and intervene in matters of the United States, the Vatican and Catalonia. How could he do it when he was locked up?
Because he had the pandering of the previous government, of the authorities of the previous government. And it practically turned the embassy into a center of international espionage and computer terrorism. That is not journalism. What you do is journalism, what the chain to which you belong is journalism.
And Assange did it on his own to benefit himself or on the orders of others?
Mr. Assange, according to what we know, is a very wealthy person, whose organization has many resources. And we now see how he gets them.
On Correa, Interpol has rejected an Ecuadorian request to arrest and extradite the former president for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping of an opponent. Will Ecuador do something else to try to arrest Correa?
We have made the request to Interpol, which is an independent organization.
But in Ecuador, now that there is an autonomous and independent justice, has determined the order of imprisonment against Mr. Correa, who should be there for the amount of evils, damages, injuries he made on the dignity of Ecuadorians and on all its economy.
That is to say that if Correa returns to Ecuador …
He goes to jail, which is where he should be. (I)