- Title: New Ecuador president says Assange a 'hacker,' but can stay at embassy
- Date: 29th May 2017
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (FILE - MAY 19, 2017) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF ECUADORIAN EMBASSY AND ITS BALCONY / MEDIA GATHERED OUTSIDE CLOSE-UP ECUADORIAN FLAG FLYING EMBASSY / MEDIA WIKILEAKS FOUNDER, JULIAN ASSANGE, WALKING ONTO EMBASSY'S BALCONY, MAKING CLENCHED FIST IN THE AIR WIKILEAKS FOUNDER, JULIAN ASSANGE, SPEAKING (NOT A SOUNDBITE) JOURNALIST ASSANGE WAVING AND WALKING INSIDE MEDIA OUTSIDE EMBASSY
- Embargoed: 12th June 2017 21:02
- Keywords: Ecuadorean embassy hacker Julian Assange Lenin Moreno
- Location: QUITO, ECUADOR / LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- City: QUITO, ECUADOR / LONDON, ENGLAND, UK
- Country: Ecuador
- Topics: Diplomacy/Foreign Policy,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA0026IW6MO7
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS MATERIAL WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY 4:3
Ecuador's new leftist president Lenin Moreno said on Monday (May 29), Julian Assange is a "hacker," making his strongest comments to date against the WikiLeaks founder while still stressing he could stay on in the country's London embassy.
Moreno, who was sworn in earlier this month, has broken with his predecessor and mentor Rafael Correa, who had said Assange was a "journalist" and granted him asylum in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over recently dropped rape allegations.
Assange, who denies the allegations, feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.
During the campaign, Moreno had already taken a tougher stance on Assange, warning him "not to intervene in the politics" of countries friendly to Ecuador.
"Mr. Assange is a hacker. That's something we reject, and I personally reject," Moreno told journalists on Monday. "But I respect the situation he is in, which calls for respect of his human rights, but we also ask that he respects the situation he is in."
Assange dodged an eviction order in Ecuador's April election, after the right-wing candidate who had vowed to kick him out of the embassy lost to Moreno.
Still, the tight presidential election highlighted just how vulnerable Assange is should a new government be ushered in.
In May, Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation into the rape allegations, but British police said Assange would still be arrested if he left the Ecuadorean embassy where he has been holed up for five years.
Moreno also said on Monday he would seek to refinance the Andean country's "expensive" foreign debt in a bid to ease pressure on its economy.
OPEC's smallest member has steep public debt due to short-term bonds and loans from key ally China, Ecuador's top financier, largely accrued under ex-president Rafael Correa.
Last week Moreno said he had reached out to the World Bank for potential financing that could help him fund ambitious social programs including free education, health and housing for lower-income families, and subsidies to eradicate extreme poverty.
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