Ecuador's president says Assange tried to use its embassy to spy

Belmarsh has frequently been used in high-profile national security cases, including that of former Finsbury Park Mosque hate preacher Abu Hamza, who now resides in a U.S. "supermax" prison following extradition.

"We cannot allow our house, the house that opened its doors, to become a centre for spying", Moreno said, in an apparent reference to the leaked pictures.

Moreno and other Ecuadorian officials accused Assange of interfering in the affairs of other states while at the embassy, abusing staffers and not taking care of his room and belongings.

Lawyer Jennifer Robinson told British TV network Sky News on Sunday the Ecuadorian government is spreading alleged falsehoods to divert attention from its decision to revoke his asylum and allow his arrest at its British embassy.

"I think the first thing to say is Ecuador has been making some pretty outrageous allegations over the past few days to justify what was an unlawful and extraordinary act in allowing British police to come inside an embassy".

Ecuador's president, Lenín Moreno, was assured by two British foreign secretaries that Julian Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty, according to letters seen by the Guardian.

The WikiLeaks founder is in custody in London awaiting sentencing for breaching his British bail conditions in 2012 by seeking refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

During his time at the Ecuadorian embassy, reports emerged that Assange's hygiene had become an issue of annoyance for staff in the building, while Ecuador's president Lenin Moreno claimed he "repeatedly violated" the terms of his asylum via his online activities. Sweden dropped its charges but Assange remained in the embassy because of potential US charges related to WikiLeaks disclosures.

He would not be expected to enter a plea to the Department of Justice case unless he loses his extradition case and is brought to a courtroom in the United States.

The Australian has always denied the claims of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.

The conspiracy charge against Assange seems meant to sidestep limits on prosecution potentially arising from the US Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom. His indictment was made public hours after his Thursday arrest, but Assange's lawyers say he is a legitimate journalist whose prosecution would have a chilling effect.

His next court appearance is May 2 via video link.

  • Tracy Klein