WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, could be extradited to the United States this week, depending on the outcome of the presidential elections in Ecuador on Sunday.
Conservative and ex-banking candidate Guillermo Lasso is going to head-to-head with the leftist leader’s former vice president, Lenin Moreno.
Lasso has made it clear that if he wins the presidency, he will end Assange’s extended stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
He said: “The Ecuadorian people are paying costs that it should not have to.”
Computer genius Mr Assange would most likely be arrested and deported to Sweden as soon as he steps outside the embassy in Knightsbridge as he is wanted for questioning over the allegation of “lesser degree rape” in Sweden.
Bruce Bagley, professor of international relations at the University of Miami, said: “If Lasso wins, Assange would be wandering the streets of London and be extremely vulnerable.”
Mr Lasso’s running opponent, leftist Mr Moreno, has always shown strong support for the WikiLeaks boss’ asylum – something Mr Lasso believes will help score him votes as the country suffers through its second year of negative or flat economic growth.
Mr Moreno won the first round vote in February, but did not gain the 50 per cent needed for an overall win.
His opponent lost by more than 10 points, but more than 60 per cent of voters opted for other candidates opposing Mr Moreno, meaning a win for conservative Mr Lasso is looking likely this Sunday.
Mr Assange, 45, entered the London embassy, thanks to outgoing President Rafael Correa, in August 2012 after being accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden in 2010.
In August 2015 three of the less serious allegations had to be dropped because the Swedish prosecutor had still not interviewed Mr Assange, but prosecutors have until 2020 to interview him over the allegation of “lesser degree rape”.
He has only appeared in daylight a few times over the past few years on the balcony at the embassy to give speeches.
His biggest fear about leaving his safe haven is being deported to Sweden could lead to a politically motivated deportation to the United States, where he could face the death penalty for his WikiLeaks activities which include a series of leaks about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars provided by former US soldier Chelsea Manning – who was jailed for 35 years on espionage crimes.
President Correa has always supported Mr Assange, believing the Swedish warrant for his arrest is politically motivated