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Ecuadorian president will not discuss Julian Assange case during UK visit

Lenin Moreno is a keynote speaker at a global disability summit in London.

Ecuador’s president will not discuss the future of Julian Assange during a brief visit to the UK, it has been announced.

Lenin Moreno will address a Global Disability Summit in London on Tuesday, highlighting Ecuador’s progress on inclusion issues.

A statement issued on Monday made it clear the president will not address issues relating to the WikiLeaks founder, who has been living in Ecuador’s London embassy for over six years.

He fears being extradited to the United States if he leaves the building, for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks.

The Head of State and his delegation will not address issues concerning the asylum granted to Mr Julian Assange, since its purpose is participation in the world meeting and the economic and commercial promotion of Ecuador in Spain, England and Scotland Ecuador government

Mr Assange has been granted political asylum by the Ecuador government, but his communication was cut off three months ago when he was accused of breaching a written commitment not to issue messages that might interfere with other states.

Ecuador said Tuesday’s summit is considered the first global celebration to recognise the achievements and rights of people with disabilities.

Mr Moreno, who uses a wheelchair after he was shot in an attempted robbery in 1998, will explain the work he developed between 2007 and 2013 as vice president of Ecuador, which earned him recognition worldwide, leading to his appointment as Special Envoy of the United Nations for disability and accessibility issues.

The summit, organised by the British Government in conjunction with the government of Kenya and the International Disability Alliance (IDA), will bring together more than 700 delegates from governments, private sector organisations, charities and people with disabilities.

Ecuador’s statement said: “It should be remembered that, in this international tour, the Head of State and his delegation will not address issues concerning the asylum granted to Mr Julian Assange, since its purpose is participation in the world meeting and the economic and commercial promotion of Ecuador in Spain, England and Scotland.”

The President will also travel to the University of Edinburgh, and later will talk with businessmen interested in investing in Ecuador.

He is not expected to visit Ecuador’s London embassy, scene of a vigil last month to mark the sixth anniversary of Mr Assange living there.

Ecuador said it will continue its position of talking and “promoting understandings” on Mr Assange’s asylum, adding there was no clear-cut short or long-term solution.

A briefing to MPs last month from one of Mr Assange’s legal team said the UK could resolve the impasse by providing a diplomatic assurance against US extradition.

“Mr Assange has made it clear he is happy to face British justice but not at the expense of facing American injustice,” said the briefing.

MPs were told that Mr Assange has been requesting an assurance from the UK that he would not be extradited to the US to face prosecution for his publishing activities with WikiLeaks.

“The UK’s failure to provide this assurance was the reason Mr Assange sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in 2012, the reason he was granted 1951 Convention refugee status by Ecuador and why he remains there today,” said the briefing.

UK diplomatic assurances would have “significant benefits” to the UK, including ending public spending on policing and surveillance, demonstrating the UK’s commitment to free speech and ending a longstanding diplomatic issue which has “disrupted” relations with Ecuador, it was said.

Mr Assange has been living under “harsh” conditions, with no access to sunlight or outdoor exercise, but things have worsened “dramatically” since his communications were cut, said the briefing, adding: “This situation is clearly untenable.”

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt will also address the summit.

Asked about the Assange case, a Downing Street spokeswoman said: “There are no plans for Penny Mordaunt to discuss that issue with the Ecuadorean president.”

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