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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Ecuador partly restores internet access for Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder, who has spent six years in the country’s London embassy, has been offline for six months

Julian Assange has been living in Ecuador's embassy for more than six years. AP
Julian Assange has been living in Ecuador's embassy for more than six years. AP

Ecuador has restored partial internet access to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who took refuge in the country’s London embassy more than six years ago, WikiLeaks and an Assange lawyer said separately on Sunday.

The move comes nearly six months after the Ecuadorean government suspended Mr Assange’s communications in March, when he discussed issues on social media that could damage the country’s diplomatic relations.

“Ecuador rolls back @JulianAssange isolation,” WikiLeaks said in a message on Twitter. The change was also confirmed by Mr Assange’s Australian legal adviser, Greg Barns, who called it “a welcome development.”

A spokesman for Mr Assange said his communications have been only partially restored.

He took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy after British courts ordered his extradition to Sweden to face questioning in a sexual molestation case. That case has since been dropped. But friends and supporters say Mr Assange now fears he could be arrested and extradited to the United States if he leaves the embassy.

WikiLeaks, which published US diplomatic and military secrets when Mr Assange ran the operation, faces a US grand jury investigation.

“The main issue, the requirement for the UK to give an undertaking that Julian would not be extradited to the US, remains unresolved,” Mr Barns told Reuters.

Friends and supporters of Mr Assange say he has had contact only with lawyers since Ecuador suspended his communications with the outside world. WikiLeaks recently announced that one of his long-time associates, Kristin Hrafnsson, had taken over from him as WikiLeaks editor-in-chief.

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Read more:

New leak shows Julian Assange sought Russian visa in 2010

Ecuador 'spied' on embassy visitors of Julian Assange

Ecuador cuts off Assange's communications from its London embassy

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As a 2016 US presidential candidate, Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks for publishing hacked emails that embarrassed his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

But Trump administration's officials have condemned Mr Assange, while a federal grand jury continues a long-running criminal investigation of WikiLeaks and its personnel, a US official recently confirmed.