London(CNN) The legal team of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange has said expelling him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London would be "illegal" and would "violate international refugee law."
"It will be a sad day for democracy if the UK and Ecuadorean governments are willing to act as accomplices to the Trump administration's determination to prosecute a publisher for publishing truthful information," according to the statement issued on Friday.
In a statement Friday, the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry called the rumors about the termination of Assange's asylum "fake news," adding that the claim of a possible agreement with the UK "misrepresents reality."
"The Ecuadorian government notices that these falsehoods are also an attempt to tarnish the dignity of the country," the ministry said in the statement. "When they issue falsehoods, the asylee and his associates express once more their ingratitude and disrespect towards Ecuador, instead of showing gratitude towards the country that has welcomed him for nearly seven years, incurred significant expenditures to pay for his stay at the Embassy, has borne their rudeness and to whom he, paradoxically, has filed a lawsuit against for adopting a cohabitation protocol in order to prevent his bad behavior from taking place again."
WikiLeaks tweeted from its verified account Thursday, "BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told @WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within "hours to days" using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext--and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest."
When asked about the speculation on Friday, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told reporters that Assange "is a free man" and "can leave the embassy whenever he wants to." "We want the situation resolved as quickly as possible," he added.
London's Metropolitan Police refused to comment when asked if police were aware of any extradition arrangement.
The Australian whistleblower has been holed up at the embassy, yards from Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, since 2012 when he was granted asylum as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was facing allegations of sexual assault.
The case has since been dropped, but as Assange fears US extradition due to his work with WikiLeaks he has remained in place. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
A US court filing in November 2018 revealed US government efforts to criminally charge Assange. The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site posted thousands of files stolen by the former US Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning.
A spokesperson for the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry had told CNN on Thursday that it does not respond to rumor or hypothesis, when asked about the WikiLeaks allegations.
Assange's Ecuadorian Lawyer, Carlos Poveda, told CNN: "It could happen, the Ecuadorian government could apply the protocol to terminate his asylum. But this would be in coordination with the United Kingdom so his exit could be shown as a war's trophy."
On Tuesday, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno told local media that Assange has repeatedly violated protocol at the embassy. "Several times, Mr. Assange has violated the agreement we reached with him and his lawyers," he said.
Poveda told CNN that the President hadn't been specific on how or which article of the protocol his client had violated.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in May 2017. Assange, founder of the website WikiLeaks, has been a key figure in major leaks of classified government documents, cables and videos.
Assange holds a copy of The Guardian newspaper in London on July 26, 2010, a day after WikiLeaks posted more than 90,000 classified documents related to the Afghanistan War.
Assange attends a seminar at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation in Stockholm on August 14, 2010. Six days later, Swedish prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest based on allegations of sexual assault from two women. Assange has always denied wrongdoing.
Assange, in London, displays a page from WikiLeaks on October 23, 2010. The day before, WikiLeaks released approximately 400,000 classified military documents from the Iraq War.
Assange and his bodyguards are seen after a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 2010. It was the month WikiLeaks began releasing diplomatic cables from US embassies.
Assange sits behind the tinted window of a police vehicle in London on December 14, 2010. Assange had turned himself in to London authorities on December 7 and was released on bail and put on house arrest on December 16. In February 2011, a judge ruled in support of Assange's extradition to Sweden. Assange's lawyers filed an appeal.
In October 2011, a month after WikiLeaks released more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables, Assange speaks to demonstrators from the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
Assange leaves the High Court in London in December 2011. He was taking his extradition case to the British Supreme Court.
Assange leaves the Supreme Court in February 2012. In May of that year, the court denied his appeal against extradition.
Assange addresses the media and his supporters from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on August 19, 2012. A few days earlier, Ecuador announced that it had granted asylum to Assange. In his public address, Assange demanded that the United States drop its "witch hunt" against WikiLeaks.
Assange speaks from a window of the Ecuadorian Embassy in December 2012.
Assange addresses the Oxford Union Society from the Ecuadorian Embassy in January 2013.
Assange appears with Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on the balcony of the embassy in June 2013.
Assange speaks during a panel discussion at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, in March 2014.
Assange attends a news conference inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2014.
Assange is seen on a video screen in March 2015, during an event on the sideline of a United Nations Human Rights Council session.
Assange, on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, holds up a United Nations report in February 2016. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that Assange was being arbitrarily detained by the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Assange speaks to the media in May 2017, after Swedish prosecutors had dropped their investigation of rape allegations against Assange. But Assange acknowledged he was unlikely to walk out of the embassy any time soon. "The UK has said it will arrest me regardless," he said. "The US CIA Director (Mike) Pompeo and the US attorney general have said that I and other WikiLeaks staff have no ... First Amendment rights, that my arrest and the arrest (of) my other staff is a priority. That is not acceptable."
Assange was seen for the first time in months during a hearing via teleconference in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2018. The hearing was then postponed due to translation difficulties.
A van displays images of Assange and Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who supplied thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Friday, April 5. A senior Ecuadorian official said no decision has been made to expel Assange from the embassy. According to WikiLeaks tweets, sources had told the organization that Assange could be kicked out of the embassy within "hours to days."
A screen grab from video footage shows the dramatic moment when Assange was hauled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy by police
on Thursday, April 11. Assange was arrested for "failing to surrender to the court" over a warrant issued in 2012. Officers made the initial move to detain Arrange after Ecuador withdrew his asylum and invited authorities into the embassy, citing the Australian's bad behavior.
Assange gestures from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London on April 11. US authorities have also issued an extradition warrant for Assange. The US Department of Justice confirmed Assange has been indicted on conspiracy with Manning.
New rules on Assange
Since Moreno took office 2017, Assange has repeatedly claimed Ecuador has been trying to make life more difficult in a bid to force him to vacate the premises. Ecuador has denied it, with Attorney General Íñigo Salvador telling reporters in October that his country was "not looking to revoke" Assange's asylum.
However, Moreno said in December that if the UK government guaranteed that Assange will not be extradited to a third country where he could face the death penalty, the WikiLeaks founder should hand himself in to the authorities.
Ecuador said that the UK had given such a guarantee, but Moreno said he needed clarification on the British position.
Last year Assange was told he had to abide by new rules imposed by the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
They include paying for his food, medical care and laundry, taking care of his cat, keeping the parts of the embassy he uses clean, and obtaining prior authorization for visitors.
CNN's Ana Maria Canizares reported from Ecuador, Gremaud Angee and Samantha Beech reported from Atlanta, and Claudia Rebaza and Hilary McGann reported from London. Claudia Dominguez contributed to this report.