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Ecuador cuts Julian Assange’s internet access, supporters launch online vigil
Cancillería del Ecuador/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
The government claims he breached a written agreement.
After the Ecuadorian government said it suspended Julian Assange’s internet connection at the London embassy offering him asylum on Wednesday, claiming the WikiLeaks founder breached a written agreement not to send messages that interfere with the outside world, an online vigil was launched to #ReconnectJulian.
“The government of Ecuador has suspended all systems that allow Julian Assange to communicate outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London,” said an official statement by the Ecuadorian government.
“This decision was taken due to Assange’s failure to commit to the written agreement he agreed with the government at the end of 2017, where he was obligated not to release any messages that would interfere with other countries’ matters,” it continues. “Assange’s behavior through his social media messages puts in risk the good relationship the country has with the U.K., other E.U. countries and other nations.”
— Comunicación Ecuador (@ComunicacionEc) March 28, 2018
The statement does not specify Assange’s offending message, but WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account claims that Ecuadorian authorities have demanded he remove a tweet about the arrest of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont in Germany.
In 1940 the elected president of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, was captured by the Gestapo, at the request of Spain, delivered to them and executed. Today, German police have arrested the elected president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, at the request of Spain, to be extradited.
— Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange) March 26, 2018
WikiLeaks also denied via Twitter the existence of the “written agreement” the Ecuadorian government said Assange signed and violated.
Claims made by Ecuador's public affairs office that @wikileaks editor @julianassange, arguably the world's best known free speech avtivist, is under a gag agreement, are, perhaps unsurpringly, entirely false.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 28, 2018
In response, Assange’s supporters have launched #ReconnectJulian, described as an online vigil broadcast to YouTube and Facebook Live to raise awareness and protest the action. The initiative is being led by Suzie Dawson, leader of the New Zealand Internet Party, and entrepreneur Kim Dotcom. They have already rallied high profile support from filmmaker Oliver Stone, Pirate Parties International, and the Courage Foundation.
Kim Dotcom and I are about to launch an online vigil for supporters of Julian Assange from around the world to congregate and advocate for the immediate restoration of Julian's human right to communication.
We will be using the hashtag #ReconnectJulian
Stay tuned for details
— Suzie Dawson (@Suzi3D) March 28, 2018
Every celebrity, politician, artist, activist, leader who wants to join our LIVE online vigil to get Julian Assange reconnected can DM myself or @Suzi3D. We want to hear what you have to say. We can’t allow Ecuador to silence Julian Assange.#ReconnectJulian
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) March 28, 2018
Assange has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, where he fled to avoid being extradited to Sweden. At the time, he faced an investigation related to allegations of sexual assault, which he has always denied and criticized as a political ruse.
Although Swedish authorities have since dropped their investigation completely, it was ruled in February that Assange would still face arrest by British authorities if he leaves the protection of the embassy over breaching his original bail conditions. In fact, Assange’s final tweet before his internet suspension was a response to comments by a British lawmaker who called him a “miserable little worm.”
As a political prisoner detained without charge for 8 years, in violation of 2 UN rulings, I suppose I must be "miserable"; yet nothing wrong with being a "little" person although I'm rather tall; and better a "worm", a healthy creature that invigorates the soil, than a snake.
— Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange) March 27, 2018
This is not the first time the WikiLeaks founder has been cut off from the internet. The Ecuadorian embassy also temporarily restricted his online access when WikiLeaks published documents from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.