Ecuador partly restores Internet access for WikiLeaks founder Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in Ecuador's London Embassy after British courts ordered his extradition to Sweden to face questioning in a sexual molestation case.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in Ecuador's London Embassy after British courts ordered his extradition to Sweden to face questioning in a sexual molestation case.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - 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 (Oct 14).

The move comes nearly six months after the Ecuadorean government suspended Mr Assange's communications in March, after he discussed issues on social media that could damage the country's diplomatic relations, including a diplomatic crisis between London and Moscow as well as Catalonian separatism.

"Ecuador rolls back @JulianAssange isolation," WikiLeaks said in a message on Twitter.

The change was also confirmed by Mr Assange's Australian legal adviser, Mr Greg Barns, who called it "a welcome development".

An Assange spokesman said his communications have been only partially restored.

Mr Assange 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 eventually 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 Mr Assange's long-time associates, Ms Kristin Hrafnsson, had taken over from him as WikiLeaks editor-in-chief.

As a 2016 presidential candidate, President Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks for publishing hacked e-mails that embarrassed his Democratic opponent, Mrs Hillary Clinton.

But Trump administration 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.