Assange must obey new rules to stay in London embassy, judge says


A judge has rejected WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's request to loosen new living requirements, including paying for his internet and cleaning up after his cat, that he says are meant to push him into leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Ecuadorian officials praised the ruling in the latest row between the Australian hacker and the government that has provided him refuge for six years.

During the hearing, Assange said the new rules were a sign Ecuador was trying to push him out, and said Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno had already made a decision to end his asylum but had not yet officially given the order.

Assange's legal team said it immediately appealed the ruling. But Ecuadorian officials have apparently grown tired of Assange's presence in the embassy, saying in January that his situation is "not sustainable".

The rules also make clear that if Assange doesn't properly feed and take care of his cat, the animal could be sent to the pound.

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Assange argued that the new measures making it more hard to receive visitors and requiring him to pay for services like laundry and medical bills are meant to coerce him into ending his asylum.

Ecuador's government contended the requirements are aimed at peaceful cohabitation in tight quarters in the small embassy.

Staff had complained of Assange riding a skateboard in the halls of the embassy, of playing soccer on the grounds and behaving aggressively with security personnel.

In a departure from its previous practice of maintaining dialogue with British authorities over Assange's situation, Ecuador's Foreign Minister José Valencia told Reuters last week that the government would no longer intervene on Assange's behalf, adding that the government was "frustrated" by the lawsuit. Sweden's top prosecutor later dropped a long-running inquiry into a rape allegation against him, saying there was no way to detain or charge him because of his protected status in the embassy. He also claimed the British government has assured Assange that he will not be extradited if he leaves the embassy.

Assange initially enjoyed a cosy relationship with then Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa but relations with his host nation have steadily deteriorated.