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Ecuador removes Julian Assange's extra security

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Ecuador has removed extra security at its London embassy following claims that $5m (£3.7m) was spent to protect WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The money was used to monitor Mr Assange's visitors, embassy staff and UK police, media reports in the UK and Ecuador said.

Mr Assange has been at the embassy since 2012 after being granted asylum.

He fled there to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations, which he denies.

The Swedish authorities have since dropped their investigation, but Britain is still seeking his arrest for breaching bail conditions.

Mr Assange, 46, believes he will be extradited to the US for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he leaves the building.

He set up Wikileaks, which publishes confidential documents and images, in 2006 - making headlines around the world in April 2010 when it released footage showing US soldiers shooting dead 18 civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

What did Ecuador say?
In a brief statement, it said: "The president of the republic, Lenín Moreno, has ordered that any additional security at the Ecuadorian embassy in London be withdrawn immediately."

It added that the mission would now "maintain normal security similar to that of other Ecuadorian embassies".

It follows reports in the Guardian newspaper and Focus Ecuador that the operation, called "Operation Guest" and later "Operation Hotel", cost about $66,000 a month.

In March, Ecuador cut Mr Assange's internet connection at the London embassy, preventing him from communicating with the outside world.

The move was to prevent Mr Assange from interfering in other countries' affairs, Ecuador said.

It came after Mr Assange had questioned accusations that Moscow was responsible for the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in the UK on 4 March.

Last May, Mr Moreno asked Mr Assange to refrain from expressing his public support for the independence campaign in Spain's Catalonia region after he tweeted that Madrid was guilty of "repression".

Mr Assange's Twitter account is now being run by his legal campaign.

Why is Assange still at Ecuador's London embassy?

He was granted asylum President Moreno's predecessor, Rafael Correa, in August 2012

The current government has said it will maintain Mr Assange's asylum

But Quito has also sought ways for him to leave the embassy without risking arrest

The Australia-born WikiLeaks founder was given Ecuadorean citizenship in 2017

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