The Ecuadorean government Wednesday restricted access to communications of the journalist and founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who has been in Ecuador’s embassy in the U.K. since 2012, for violating an agreement in which he had pledged not to comment on the affairs of other countries.
"The government of Ecuador suspended the systems that allow Julian Assange to communicate with the outside world from the Ecuadorian embassy in London," the Secretary of Communication said Wednesday in a press release, in which he affirms that the decision began to be applied a day earlier.
“The measure was adopted after Assange's failure to comply with the written commitment reached with the government in December 2017, in which he was obliged not to issue messages that implied interference in relation to other states."
The Ecuadorean government is worried that Assange's use of social media can hurt the "good relations the country keeps with the United Kingdom, other countries in the European Union and other nations," and said it was prepared to take further actions if Assange keeps breaking his commitment.
Being a critical commentator and politicallly persecuted, Assange usually comments on international affairs on his Twitter account.
In recent days, he criticized Germany's decision to arrest the Catalan pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont on behalf of the Spanish government. Assange has been a fierce supporter of the Catalan independence movement and promoted last year's referendum, considered illegal by Spanish central authorities.
He also offered to testify in relation to the Cambridge Analytica case, after evidence surfaced about their involvement in Donald Trump's presidency campaign and working with groups that supported a "yes" vote in U.K.'s Brexit refrenedum.
But the comment that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back is his response to U.K.'s Europe and the Americas Minister Alan Duncan, who called Assange a "miserable little worm" that should walk out of the embassy and give himself up to British justice.
Assange couldn't refrain from commenting and answered Duncan through a tweet: "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."
Kim Dotcom, former owner of the file-sharing company Megaupload, called for Assange's supporters to gather outside the embassy in protest the Ecuadorean government's decision.
Former Greek Minister of Finance Ioannis Varoufakis also called for people to demand the Ecuadorean authorities restore his internet connection.
Assange and the United Nations consider the WikiLeaks founder to be under arbitrary detention in the Ecuadorean embassy, a description of his situation rejected by the British authorities who say he voluntarily went into the building and could leave anytime if he is prepared to face the consequences of his actions.
“I have already fully served any theoretical (I haven’t been charged) ‘bail violation’ whilst in prison and under house arrest. So why is there a warrant for my arrest?” he said in an email to Reuters.
Last month, a British judge refused to halt legal proceedings against Assange for jumping bail and said he was “a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice”.
British police ended their permanent guard on the embassy in October 2015 but said they would maintain “covert tactics” to arrest Assange if he left. At the time, they said 12.6 million pounds (US$17.8 million) had been spent on patrolling the embassy.