Why did Ecuador give up Assange after seven years?

Updated 9:28 AM EDT, Sat April 13, 2019
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05:  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy where  he continues to seek asylum following an extradition request from Sweden in 2012, on February 5, 2016 in London, England. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has insisted that Mr Assange's detention should be brought to an end.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Carl Court/Getty Images
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy where he continues to seek asylum following an extradition request from Sweden in 2012, on February 5, 2016 in London, England. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has insisted that Mr Assange's detention should be brought to an end. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

Hours after Julian Assange was ousted from his diplomatic refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, the country released a laundry list of alleged transgressions which brought the WikiLeaks founder’s seven-year residency to an end.

Foreign Minister José Valencia and Interior Minister María Paula Romo accused Assange of riding scooters around the cramped embassy hallways, insulting staff and smearing feces on the walls.

But while Ecuador had undoubtedly tired of its London house guest, the motivations for stripping Assange of his asylum and allowing in officers of the Metropolitan Police are likely to have been more complex.

WikiLeaks had already been needling the Ecuadorian authorities in other ways. For months, Assange had been pursuing a legal action against the Ecuadorian government, accusing it of violating his rights by introducing strict new house rules for living at the embassy. An Ecuadorian judge rejected the assertions last October.

Quito was also irritated by Assange’s support for the Catalonian independence movement: Its Foreign Ministry told Assange to refrain from making statements that could impair Ecuador’s relations with other countries, including Spain.

More recently, WikiLeaks got personal. On March 25, WikiLeaks posted a tweet bringing attention to a corruption probe that Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno is facing. It linked to an anonymously registered website hosting a vast trove of leaked emails, text messages and other documents pertaining to Moreno’s private life.

The Ecuadorian government blamed WikiLeaks for the leaked documents, dubbed the INA Papers, an allegation that WikiLeaks denies.

For WikiLeaks and its supporters, the Ecuadorian government tried to use the INA Papers leak as yet another pretext to terminate Assange’s asylum.

Moreno has denied any wrongdoing. The attorney general’s office has launched an investigation into the allegations. WikiLeaks denied any involvement in the release of the INA Papers, but that hasn’t stopped Moreno from pointing the finger at Assange and WikiLeaks.

Assange does not have the right to “hack accounts or personal phones,” Moreno told the Ecuadorian Radio Broadcasters’ Association last Tuesday

Over the weekend, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Relations ramped up the rhetoric against Assange when it put out a fiery statement rejecting “the fake news that has circulated in the last few days on social media, many of them spread by an organization linked to Mr. Julian Assange.”

Relations between Assange and Ecuador deteriorated further on Wednesday when WikiLeaks called a press conference and claimed the group had discovered a spying operation against Assange from within the embassy.

Speaking to reporters in London, Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said Ecuador had made surreptitious video and audio recordings of Assange and his interactions at the embassy, including a medical examination and meetings with legal representatives.