ConsortiumNews: "A Year of Silencing Julian Assange"

By Elizabeth Vos

One year ago Thursday, Ecuador's government under President Lenin Moreno silenced Julian Assange.

WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter Wednesday: "... March 28, marks one year that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been illegally gagged from doing journalism - any writing that expresses a 'political opinion' - even on his own treatment, after pressure from the U.S. on Ecuador."

On this date in 2018 Moreno imposed on Assange what Human Rights Watch's legal counsel Dinah Pokempner described as looking "more and more like solitary confinement." Moreno cut off Assange's online access and restricted visitors to the Ecuador embassy in London where Assange has had legal political asylum since 2012.

Moreno cited Assange's critical social media remarks about Ecuador's allies, the U.S. and Spain. Assange's near-total isolation, with the exception of visits from legal counsel during week days, has been augmented by the Ecuadorian government's imposition of a complex "protocol," which, although eased slightly in recent months in respect of visits allowed, has not improved Assange's overall status over the last 12 months. In some respects, it seems to have worsened.

WikiLeaks' Courage Foundation described the terms of the protocol:

"Explicit threats to revoke Julian's asylum if he, or any visitors, breach or are perceived to breach, any of the 28 'rules' in the protocol. The 'protocol' forbids Julian from undertaking journalism and expressing his opinions, under threat of losing his asylum. The rules also state that the embassy can seize Julian's property or his visitors' property and hand these to the UK police, and report visitors to the UK authorities. The protocol also requires visitors to provide the IMEI codes and serial numbers of electronic devices used inside the embassy, and states that this private information may be shared with undisclosed agencies."

The protocol does not spell out all the restrictions imposed on Assange and his supporters over the last year. A bombshell report by Cassandra Fairbanks on Tuesday revealed Ecuador's demand that Assange and his lawyer be scanned before entering a "highly bugged and monitored" conference room with a journalist.

Describing her experience, Fairbanks said she had been: "Locked in a cold, surveilled room for over an hour by Ecuadorian officials, as a furious argument raged between the country's ambassador and Julian Assange."

The argument reportedly centered on Assange's refusal to submit to a body scan in order to enter the conference room, where Fairbanks waited. Fairbanks reported that Assange shouted at the Ecuadorian ambassador, accusing the latter of acting as an agent of the United States government. The ambassador then told Assange to "shut up," she reported.

WikiLeaks, writing via social media, has confirmed the "factual elements" of Fairbanks' story.

Subject to Body Scans

Assange and his lawyers are now subjected to body scans in addition to conditions that, in the opinion of Ecuador's former President Rafael Correa, already amounted to torture. In his argument with the ambassador, Assange protested that he was being treated like "a prisoner" and not a political asylee.

Assange's supporters have claimed that rather than risk a public-relations fallout by removing Assange from the embassy by force, the U.S., UK and Ecuador are acting to hasten Assange's physical and mental demise in hopes he will be forced to leave the embassy or become incapacitated.

WikiLeaks' new Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT in a televised interview: "We, of course, know that Lenin Moreno in Ecuador is willing to sacrifice Julian Assange for debt relief, that was reported by The New York Times in early December.""

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