Ecuador defends handover of Assange documents to US

Quito (AFP) –


Ecuador confirmed Tuesday it would hand over to the United States documents and computer hardware belonging to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, insisting it was complying fully with the law.

The prosecutor's office in Quito would determine "what goods should or should not be shared," said Foreign Minister Jose Valencia, who confirmed the handover in an interview with Ecuador's ECTV.

He said the delivery of Assange's documents would take place "in full compliance with the law."

Assange's lawyers said Monday they had received an e-mail from prosecutors informing them of the planned handover of items left behind by Assange when his seven-year stay at the London embassy ended in his arrest last month.

Prosecutors have authorized police to carry out a search next Monday of the room which the Australian occupied and seize his personal belongings.

Valencia defended the handover, saying: "This is derived from a very clear order from a competent judicial authority."

"It will be the Prosecutor's office that decides what goods should or should not be shared with the United States authorities and which are personal effects that must be returned to its owner," he said.

The belongings, including computers, mobile phones, memory sticks and other electronic devices, will 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 an e-mail cited by the Australian's legal team.

Assange's legal team in Ecuador has filed a petition seeking to block the handover, and failing that, at least allowing Assange to be present at the search.

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.