Assange to stay in Ecuador embassy as leftist win

Published 03.04.2017 23:16

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dodged an eviction order in Ecuador's Sunday election, after the right-wing candidate who had vowed to kick him out of the country's London embassy lost a presidential election.

Assange has been holed up in the tiny embassy for nearly five years, protected by Ecuador's current leftist government from extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. Conservative presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso had vowed to roll back that welcome mat and remove Assange within 30 days of winning office, making global headlines and spooking Assange's supporters.

Leftist government candidate Lenin Moreno claimed victory in Ecuador's presidential vote on Sunday, bucking a shift to the right in South America, but the conservative challenger asked for a recount as some supporters took to the streets in protest.

It would boost the struggling leftist movement in South America after right-leaning governments recently came to power in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru as a commodities boom ended, economies flagged and corruption scandals grew.

The region's de facto leftist leader, President Nicolas Maduro of crisis-hit Venezuela, profusely congratulated Moreno on Twitter, as did Bolivia's President Evo Morales.

Assange fled to Ecuador's embassy in June 2012 to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden, where he faces a rape allegation.

The WikiLeaks founder, who denies the allegation, says he fears Sweden would send him to the United States to face trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010. Outgoing President Rafael Correa, a fiery critic of the US, granted Assange asylum. Moreno, Correa's former vice president, has vowed to uphold it.

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