- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2018

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has initiated legal action against the government of Ecuador over terms and conditions related to his ongoing residency inside the nation’s London embassy, representatives for the anti-secrecy group said Friday.

Baltasar Garzon, an attorney for WikiLeaks, filed a lawsuit in Ecuador seeking reprieve from rules imposed by Quito on Mr. Assange, a resident of the embassy since 2013, including restrictions designed to keep him from using the phone and internet, the group said in a statement.

“He has been held in inhuman conditions for more than six years,” Mr. Garzon said at a press conference announcing a lawsuit against Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia, Reuters reported. “Even people who are imprisoned have phone calls paid for by the state.”

The Foreign Ministry declined to comment, Reuters reported.

A 47-year-old Australian native and former computer hacker, Mr. Assange entered Ecuador’s London embassy in June 2012 prior to ultimately receiving asylum in lieu of facing criminal proceedings abroad. He remains the subject of an arrest warrant issued by British authorities, however, and the risk of being apprehended and extradited to the U.S. to face charges related to WikiLeaks has precluded him from exiting, instead creating an international impasse now in its seventh year.

Ecuador severed Mr. Assange’s internet and phone access in March, and WikiLeaks said in a statement that those measures and others implemented in the last several months constitute to a violation of its founder’s “fundamental rights and freedoms.”

In addition to opposing rules restricting Mr. Assange’s access to the world beyond the embassy, WikiLeaks said his lawyers are challenging a “Special Protocol” recently reported in the media, according to the statement.

“The protocol makes Assange’s political asylum contingent on censoring his freedom of opinion, speech and association,” WikiLeaks said in the statement. “The protocol also requires journalists, his lawyers and anyone else seeking to see Julian Assange to disclose private or political details such as their social media usernames, the serial numbers and IMEI codes of their phones and tablets with Ecuador — which the Protocol says the government may ‘share with other agencies.’”

The rules were implemented by Ecuador without consulting Mr. Assange, his lawyer said Friday, Reuters reported.

The Department of Justice began investigating WikiLeaks following the group’s release in 2010 of classified U.S. military and diplomatic documents, and President Trump’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, previously called arresting Mr. Assange a “priority.”

Ecuador naturalized Mr. Assange late last year.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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