Julian Assange will be given a month’s notice to leave the Ecuadorian embassy if the country’s main opposition candidate wins the presidency in next week’s election. In an interview with the Guardian, Guillermo Lasso, of the rightwing Creo-Suma alliance, said it was time for the WikiLeaks founder to move on because his asylum was expensive and no longer justified. “The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” he said during an interview in Quito. “We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.” That possibility is still some way off. In the most recent poll, Lasso is seven points behind the ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno, but the former banker has been gaining ground ahead of the first round of voting on 19 February and is widely tipped to force a runoff. Even if there is no change in power in Quito, however, it seems increasingly likely that Assange will soon be moving from the cramped embassy in Knightsbridge that has been his refuge for more than four and a half years.
Although the current government has maintained its position of solidarity, all involved have grown increasingly frustrated with a situation that Ecuador’s top diplomat described as “something out of a John le Carré novel”.
“Our staff have been through a lot. There is a human cost,” said the foreign minister, Guillaume Long. “This is probably the most watched embassy on the planet.”
British police and intelligence have kept the embassy under close surveillance since Ecuador granted asylum in June 2012 to prevent Assange’s extradition to Sweden for questioning about a sexual assault accusation.