Ecuador on Thursday reached a deal with the United Kingdom that would allow WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the first time in six years, but Assange rejected the pact because it did not protect him from being extradited to the United States, his lawyer told The Telegraph.
Assange faces charges in the United States, but it is not immediately clear what for. In the past, prosecutors had considered pursuing a case involving theft of government property, conspiracy, or violating the Espionage Act.
The whistleblower has been under investigation by the Justice Department since 2010 after WikiLeaks released classified reports on the war in Afghanistan.
The site in 2016 also posted thousands of emails stolen from Democrats by Russian military intelligence officers.
“The suggestion that as long as the death penalty is off the table, Mr. Assange need not fear persecution is obviously wrong,” Barry Pollack told The Telegraph.
“No one should have to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information. Since such charges appear to have been brought against Mr. Assange in the United States, Ecuador should continue to provide him asylum.”
Assange has been living in the embassy since 2012 when he claimed political asylum. At the time, he was facing allegations he raped two women in Sweden, charges that have since been dropped by Swedish authorities.
Ecuador has grown frustrated with his stay, and President Lenin Moreno on Thursday said he was “not happy” with Assange’s presence at the embassy.
“The way has been cleared for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave in near-liberty,” Moreno told The Telegraph.