WikiLeaks supporters were thrilled to hear that Ecuador would restore Julian Assange’s internet connection. But his hosts – who have in some ways become his jailers – imposed a long list of restrictions on his behavior.
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While stating that he is allowed to exercise his “right of communication and freedom of expression,” a nine-page document already leaked online forbids the journalist from engaging in political activity or doing anything to interfere in the affairs of other states.
The document expressly states that Ecuador cannot be held liable for the content of Assange’s communications, but nevertheless prohibits him from engaging in activities that might damage the relationship between Ecuador and other states. Assange’s communications were cut seven months ago, after he criticized Spanish authorities’ treatment of voters during the Catalan independence referendum.
Assange must pay for his own WiFi. He must use only his own devices, absent written government permission, and provide the embassy with serial number, model number, and brand name for those devices. He must also pay for his own medical evaluations, with the option of transferring to a hospital in case of an emergency – an option repeatedly denied him by UK authorities, who refused to guarantee safe passage without arrest in the event of such a transfer. Assange’s health has been the subject of much concern during his six-year confinement in the Embassy.
Visitors are also slapped with new restrictions. They must submit visit requests in writing to the embassy chief, giving their name, nationality, profession and place of work, reason for visiting, email and social media accounts, and even the serial numbers for phones and other devices they wish to bring inside. The new rules even mandate the collection of IMEIs, unique identification numbers specific to a phone handset.
While repeat visitors receive a less restrictive screening process, they can have their access revoked at any time without an explanation. All visitor data will be turned over to the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other unspecified parties.
The restrictions include a threat to use UK police to arrest visitors or seize communications equipment should the journalist violate the lengthy list of rules. Adding insult to injury, the embassy threatened to remove Assange’s cat to a shelter should they decide he is not cleaning up after the animal properly.
Citing budget cuts, the document adds that the Embassy will cease to pay for Assange’s food, medical care, laundry and related expenses on December 1. From that point, only water, heat, electricity, communications, and rent will be paid for.
Violation of the rules, according to the document, will result in revocation of asylum. It is unclear what such a revocation would mean for Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship, which he was granted in 2017. Moreno has made no secret of his desire to be rid of the man he has called an “inherited problem,” while the Trump administration has declared its intention to prosecute Assange.
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