(Reuters) – Ecuador has restored partial internet access to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who fled to the country's London embassy more than six years ago, said WikiLeaks and a lawyer from Assange on Sunday.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen on May 19, 2017, on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, UK. REUTERS / Peter Nicholls / Files
The move comes nearly six months after the Ecuadorian government suspended Assange's communications in March after discussing social media issues that could damage the country's diplomatic relations, including a diplomatic crisis between London and Moscow as well as Catalan separatism.
"Ecuador rolls back @JulianAssange isolation," WikiLeaks said in a message on Twitter. The change was also confirmed by Assange's Australian legal advisor Greg Barns, who described it as "a welcome development."
A spokesman for Assange said his communications were only partially restored.
Assange escaped to the London embassy in Ecuador after British courts ordered his extradition to Sweden to face sexual abuse. This case has since been dropped. But friends and supporters say Assange now fears he might be arrested and eventually extradited to the United States if he leaves the embassy. WikiLeaks, which released US diplomatic and military secrets when Assange led the operation, is facing a US grand jury investigation.
"The main problem, the requirement that the UK commit to not extraditing Julian to the US, remains unresolved," Barns told Reuters.
Assange's friends and supporters say he only had contact with lawyers since Ecuador stopped communicating with the outside world. WikiLeaks recently announced that one of Assange's longtime associates, Kristin Hrafnsson, had been the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
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But Trump officials have condemned Assange, while a federal grand jury continues a long-running criminal investigation by WikiLeaks and its staff, a US official recently confirmed.
coverage by Mark Hosenball and Michael Holden; Letter from David Morgan; Editing by Sandra Maler