As the threat of extradition to the US hangs over Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder has been forced to keep his beloved pet cat safe by sending it away to live in exile with Assange family members.
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Residing in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012, Assange’s safety became precarious last year when Ecuador elected President Lenin Moreno, a more pro-US voice than that of predecessor Rafael Correa and a man who described Assange as a “stone in our shoe.”
Assange has since had his internet at Ecuador’s UK embassy cut, his visitation rights severely curtailed, and Moreno’s government has revoked the diplomatic credentials of London ambassador Abad Ortiz, Assange’s last diplomatic contact in the UK. Add the reported existence of a sealed indictment into the mix, and things aren’t looking good for the WikiLeaks boss.
Making matters worse, Assange’s only companion, the embassy cat, was in danger too.
According to Assange’s legal team, his Ecuadorian hosts have also threatened to place his beloved cat in a pound. No doubt knowing the toll imprisonment and isolation takes on a being, Assange had his lawyers deliver the kitty to his family.
“They will be united in freedom,” wrote legal team member Hanna Jonasson.
In the same document in which Ecuador threatened to hand Assange over for arrest, Ecuador also threatened to put Assange's cat in the pound.
Insensed at the threat, he asked his lawyers to take his cat to safety. The cat is with Assange's family. They will be reunited in freedom. pic.twitter.com/W9FvDbvQgw
— Hanna Jonasson (@AssangeLegal) November 27, 2018
Twitter reacted with shock. “They took his embassy cat,” one commenter tweeted. “Is nothing sacred.”
Before Jonasson’s tweet, earlier reports suggested that Assange had been neglecting to look after the cat. Housekeeping rules issued in October and reported on by the Guardian warned Assange to take care of the “well-being, food, hygiene, and proper care” of the cat, or have it taken away.
However poorly or well Assange treated his four-legged companion, he seemed attached to it, and was pictured feeding and playing with the kitten in happier times.
Assange was granted refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 while fighting extradition to Sweden regarding a sexual assault case. The UN human rights panel has called Assange’s embassy ordeal an arbitrary detention by the UK and Sweden. Though the case was dropped, Assange believes he will be arrested and extradited to the US if he leaves the embassy, over his involvement with WikiLeaks.
More recently, rumors have circulated that UK and Ecuadorian officials are locked in intense negotiations over the prospect of Assange’s eviction. The cat’s departure, as well as the latest news about the potential indictment, have made those rumors that much more real.
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