Ecuador to give US Assange's possessions: lawyers

Madrid (AFP) –


Ecuador will hand over to the United States documents and computer hardware which Wikileaks founder and whistleblower Julian Assange left behind at its London embassy, his lawyers said Monday.

Ecuadoran public prosecutors have authorised police next Monday to search the room which the Australian occupied for seven years and seize his personal belongings, they said.

They cited an e-mail from the public prosecutors dated May 8 but AFP was not able to confirm its authenticity.

The belongings, including computers, mobile phones, memory sticks and other electronic devices, will then be sent to the United States as part of Ecuador's response to a request from the US Department of Justice for cooperation into its investigation into Assange, according to the e-mail.

This is an "absolute violation of the right of defence, because they will hand over to the United States all his communications with his lawyers, which are confidential," Assange's lawyer in Madrid, Aitor Martinez, told AFP.

Assange, 47, is currently in a London jail. A US indictment charges him with "conspiracy" for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defense computers in March 2010.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries.

Assange could face up to five years in jail if found guilty, although his team is fighting his extradition and the process could take years.

His lawyer in Ecuador, Carlos Poveda, told AFP that he was "never" notified of the public prosecutors' decision.

Poveda said he had appealed the permission to seize Assange's belongings be suspended.

If public prosecutors do not reverse their decision, he has asked that Assange be present when the room is searched.

According to Ecuadoran judicial sources, the public prosecutors' office has not made the decision public because it is part of a confidential international cooperation document.

Assange, who holed himself up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid a British extradition order to Sweden over an allegation of rape, was arrested on April 11 after Ecuador gave him up.

A London court sentenced him on May 1 to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail when he took refuge in the embassy.

Swedish prosecutors decided Monday to reopen his investigation for alleged rape in 2010, which he denies and says is a pretext to transfer him to the United States.