Julian Assange (and his cat) go to court

We first heard about this last week, but the story keeps developing new and interesting wrinkles. Back in August, we were teased by a number of articles coming out of European media indicating that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was within days of cutting a deal which would allow him to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London after many long years, possibly even coming to Washington to testify before Congress. Clearly, those plans have fallen through.

Ecuador had cut off Assange’s internet access for a time, but this month they at least partially restored it. There were, however, conditions applied to this boon and Assange wasn’t happy about them. Now he’s decided that enough is enough and he’s going to sue his hosts for infringing upon his freedoms. And he’ll feed his darned cat whenever he feels like it. (BBC)

Julian Assange is to launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his “fundamental rights and freedoms”.

The Wikileaks co-founder has lived in its UK embassy since 2012 after seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden over a rape inquiry – later dropped.

He was given a set of house rules by the London embassy this week, including taking better care of his cat.

Mr Assange faces arrest for allegedly breaching bail conditions if he leaves.

When that article was published it was only an “intention” but as of this weekend, it’s been confirmed. A Wikileaks attorney has flown to Ecuador to kick off the legal proceedings.

Some of the restrictions on Assange’s communications would seem ominous indeed if he were some free citizen in a democratic country. Any journalists, diplomats or even Assange’s own attorneys have to agree to “disclose private or political details – such as the serial numbers and codes of their phones and tablets.” The embassy also reserves the right to share that information with other agencies and they’ve even demanded the ability to seize his personal property without a warrant and hand it over to UK authorities.

Oh, and they want him to make sure that he’s feeding his cat and providing it with proper litterbox facilities.

That may sound intolerable and in more normal circumstances it could easily be considered an outrage. Assange is saying that they are “violating his fundamental rights and freedoms“. Sadly, the Ecuadorians have an easy and simple answer to these complaints. If Mr. Assange wishes to speak to any of his visitors in private there’s a lovely bench right across the street where he can do so at his leisure. And if he wants internet access, the wifi at the pub down the block regularly provides five bars of service.

Nobody is forcing Julian Assange to stay in the embassy a day longer than he wishes to. But as long as he does, he’s on Ecuadorean property, not British soil, and his hosts make the rules. As to the status of the cat, they might want to take that up with the RSPCA.

All sarcasm aside, what is Assange thinking and doesn’t he have any competent legal advisors to guide him? I’ll grant you that he may be a bit loopy after spending this much time locked up in that building but he needs some sound legal advice. He’s going to sue the people who have been providing him asylum for all these years? They can cancel that deal at any time and dump him – and his cat – unceremoniously out on the sidewalk any time they like.

Of course, when considering the larger picture, that might be in both Ecuador’s best interests and those of the United States as well.