Julian Assange is taking legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his “fundamental rights and freedoms”.
While this might appear like ‘biting the hand that feeds and shelters you’ Assange’s lawyer notes his client’s poor health and new more restrictive rules for asylum have forced them to take action.
The move, as The Guardian reports, follows a deterioration in relations between the Ecuadorian government and the Wikileaks founder, who was granted refuge at Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 while he was on bail in the UK over sexual assault allegations against him in Sweden.
He was reportedly given a set of stringent new house rules by the London embassy, including cleaning his bathroom and taking better care of his cat (threatening to confiscate the pet if he did not look after it).
Assange must obtain approval for all visitors from diplomatic staff three days in advance. He is expressly banned from activities that could be “considered as political or interfering with the internal affairs of other states”, according to a memo seen by the Guardian.
In a statement, Wikileaks said:
“Ecuador’s measures against Julian Assange have been widely condemned by the human rights community.”
As The BBC reports, it claims the government of Ecuador refused a visit by Human Rights Watch general counsel Dinah PoKempner and had not allowed several meetings with his lawyers.
Mr Assange’s lawyers also said they were challenging the legality of the Ecuador government’s “special protocol” – which makes his political asylum dependent on “censoring” his freedom of opinion, speech and association.
What’s the special protocol?
Lawyers for Mr Assange claim the protocol:
Requires journalists, Mr Assange’s lawyers and anyone else looking to see him to disclose private or political details – such as the serial numbers and codes of their phones and tablets
The protocol says the government may “share” the information “with other agencies”
Allows the embassy to seize the property of Mr Assange or his visitors and, without a warrant, hand it over to UK authorities
WikiLeaks said that US congressmen had written an open letter to Ecuador’s president, Lenin Moreno, about the situation.
It claims the document said that in order to advance crucial matters – such as economic co-operation, counternarcotics assistance and the possible return of a USAID mission to Ecuador – they must first resolve a “significant challenge” – the status of Mr Assange.
Sources close to WikiLeaks confirmed to the Guardian on Friday that the legal action was in the works and that there was due to be a press conference in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.