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Julian Assange fights asylum terms dictating he has to pay for food, cat care

The new terms say that because of budget cuts, the embassy is no longer able to pay medical, laundry or food costs associated with Assange's stay.
Image:  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in May 2017.Peter Nicholls / Reuters file

QUITO, Ecuador — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has filed a lawsuit in Ecuador against new terms of asylum in the Andean country's London embassy that require him to pay for medical bills and phone calls and to clean up after his pet cat, his lawyer said Friday.

Ecuador created the new protocol governing his stay at the embassy this month. Assange's attorney, Baltasar Garzón, said at a news conference in Quito that the rules were drawn up without consulting Assange, an Australian national, who sued Foreign Minister Jose Valencia in a Quito court to have them changed.

Assange has not had access to the internet since it was cut off in March, Garzón added, contradicting a WikiLeaks statement last week saying it had been restored.

"He has been held in inhuman conditions for more than six years," Garzón said. "Even people who are imprisoned have phone calls paid for by the state," he added, describing the obligations regarding the cat as "denigrating."

Garzón said Valencia was named in the lawsuit because he serves as the intermediary between Assange and the Ecuadorian government.

Valencia said the government "will respond in an appropriate manner."

"The protocol is in line with international standards and Ecuadorian law," he told reporters in the Ecuadorian city of Daule on Friday.

The protocol stipulates new terms for Assange that include limits on how many visitors he can receive and when. It also says that because of budget cuts, the embassy is no longer able to pay medical, laundry or food costs associated with Assange's stay and that he has to keep his living area and bathroom clean, as well as pay for his pet cat's food and wellbeing.

Assange's stay has become an increasing annoyance for Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno, who has said the asylum cannot be eternal but has been reluctant to push Assange out over concern for his human rights.

Former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa granted Assange asylum in 2012 as he sought to avoid extradition to Sweden for interrogation on suspicion of sexual assault. Assange has said he believes he would be handed over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

Sweden later dropped its investigation, but Britain has said he will be arrested for violating the terms of his bail if he leaves the embassy.

Ecuador gave Assange citizenship in 2017 and named him to a diplomatic post in Russia, but ikt rescinded the latter after Britain refused to give him diplomatic immunity, according to an Ecuadorian government document seen by Reuters.

Laura Saravia contributed.