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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Assange launches legal action against Ecuador

WikiLeaks founder accuses embassy host of violating his freedom

Baltasar Garzon, left, Julian Assange's lawyer, has started legal action in Ecuador over conditions in which the WikiLeaks founder is being held in London. EPA
Baltasar Garzon, left, Julian Assange's lawyer, has started legal action in Ecuador over conditions in which the WikiLeaks founder is being held in London. EPA

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has begun legal action against Ecuador for violations of his rights after more than six years holed up inside the country’s embassy in London.

The group’s lawyer Baltasar Garzon has arrived in Ecuador to begin the case, seven months after Ecuador cut off his communications and refused to allow some journalists and human rights organisations to visit him, according to WikiLeaks.

Mr Assange fears being extradited to the United States if he leaves the embassy. He faces arrest in the UK for skipping bail despite Sweden dropping a sexual assault investigation against him.

Mr Assange was given political asylum under Rafael Correa, the former president. The group said that his successor, Lenin Moreno, is facing mounting pressure to hand him over to the UK.

The group is also challenging a new set of rules revealed this week that it says makes his political asylum “contingent on censoring his freedom of opinion, speech and association.”

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It says that visitors seeking to see him must disclose private details including phone numbers and social media handles that Ecuador’s government may share with other agencies.

It said that Ecuador has also installed three signal jammers in the embassy to prevent his phone calls and internet access. The embassy restored partial internet access earlier this week.

WikiLeaks has published military and diplomatic secrets sparking the ire of successive US governments.

When he was running for president, Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks for publishing hacked emails that embarrassed his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump administration officials have since condemned Mr Assange.