An Ecuadorian judge rejected a lawsuit filed Julian Assange objecting to the revised terms of his asylum at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been stranded since 2012.
It wasn't all bad news for Assange however: citing a government official, Reuters reported that Ecuador would maintain Assange’s asylum as long as he wants to keep it, but he must follow the rules laid out for him by the government. Embassy staff has complained of Assange riding a skateboard in the halls of the embassy, of playing soccer on the grounds and behaving aggressively with security personnel.
Earlier on Monday, Assange said that Ecuador was seeking to end his asylum in its London embassy and hand him over to the United States, citing new rules governing his residence at the Andean nation’s diplomatic mission as evidence. The new rules, which were leaked earlier this month by an opposition politician, include a list of restrictions Assange has argued violate his "fundamental rights and freedoms" as well as Ecuadorian and international law. Among them are restrictions on discussing politics and receiving visitors, and demands of Assange to pay for his own food, phone bills, medical care, laundry and related expenses of living at the embassy starting December 1.
Ecuador also threatened to seize Assange’s pet cat if he did not clean up after it.
In the teleconference Monday, Assange said the new rules were a sign Ecuador was trying to push him out, and said Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno had already decided to end his asylum but had not yet officially given the order. He also accused Ecuador of using him as a “bargaining chip” in talks with the US and UK governments, and submitting to pressure from Washington and London.
In response, newspaper El Comercio said that Ecuadorian Attorney General Inigo Salvador Crespo called those statements "malicious and perverse." Crespo also countered that the new regulations and special protocols governing Assange’s visitations were put together for the purpose of making Assange’s continued stay at the embassy "harmonious."
"It is a public building that was not intended for housing, so there must be regulation," he told the judge.
The WikiLeaks founder, who sought asylum in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden in a sexual assault case that was later dropped, has long feared that the UK would have him extradited to the US over his publication of classified US diplomatic cables and military documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange remains in the embassy to avoid being jailed by Great Britain for violating the terms of his bail, which he has said would result in his being handed over to Washington. Ecuador does not have an extradition treaty with the US.
Assange's status became precarious after the election of President Lenin Moreno in 2017. Though Moreno served as vice-president to Rafael Correa, who granted Assange asylum, he was under strong pressure from the US to hand over the self-exiled journalist.
Things were looking up in December 2017, when Assange was granted Ecuadorian citizenship and there was speculation that he would get a diplomatic passport. Instead, in March of this year the embassy cut off his phone and internet access and banned all visitation, when Ecuador’s government objected to his online commentary about sensitive political issues in other countries, including publishing opinions about the Catalonia separatist movement in Spain.
Speaking to RT, Correa said that "the Ecuadorian state has to protect Assange’s rights, he is not just an asylum [seeker]; he is a citizen," adding that he thought that the current government had “absolutely submitted” to Washington’s dictates.
"They try to humiliate Assange but only humiliate themselves,” Correa told RT. ”These rules really go against the human rights. They are trying to isolate Assange and to push him to abandon our embassy."
Meanwhile, Assange’s internet access and visitation rights have yet to be restored, despite promises from Quito to do so, according to his attorney Baltasar Garzon.