Ecuador denies Assange’s embassy conditions deteriorated

QUITO (AFP) – Ecuador on Friday denied media reports that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been made to sleep on the floor and denied heating at the country’s London embassy.

In a statement, the presidency’s communication secretary dismissed the claims as “TOTALLY FALSE,” and said the embassy’s heating system “is working normally.”

“No furniture has been removed from his room, which is accessed by an electronic key for his exclusive use,” the statement added.

Assange, 47, has been living in the embassy since seeking refuge there in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault charges that have since expired.

But he still refuses to leave the embassy to avoid extradition to the United States to face charges over his website publishing huge caches of hacked State Department and Pentagon files in 2010.

US prosecutors in November last year inadvertently revealed the existence of a sealed indictment against Assange, according to WikiLeaks, but it was not known what the actual charges were. The possible indictment suggested that Washington will seek Assange’s extradition if he leaves the embassy.

Last month, Ecuador said conditions had been met for the embassy’s increasingly unwelcome guest to leave, as Britain had guaranteed it wouldn’t extradite him to any country where his life would be in danger.

That could be an issue in the case of the United States (US) because it has the death penalty.

Meanwhile in Britain, he also faces prosecution for failing to meet his bail conditions after fleeing to the embassy.

In October last year, Assange sued Ecuador for violating his “fundamental rights” by limiting his access to the outside world after blocking his internet and mobile phone access back in March.

But the Australian’s case was thrown out by an Ecuadoran court.

The Courage Foundation, a British charity helping whistleblowers around the world on Thursday warned that Assange’s position at the embassy was “under increasingly serious threat” and that his expulsion “may be imminent.”