Julian Assange announced on Friday that he was suing the Ecuadorean government for “violating his fundamental rights,” claiming that his longtime hosts at the country’s embassy in London are limiting his contact with the outside world and censoring his speech.
His legal team in the matter, led by the former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, revealed the suit at a news conference in Quito, where the lawsuit was filed. The action aims to prevent strict new rules governing Mr. Assange’s visitors and online activity from taking effect.
The policies were laid out in a nine-page memo that was published by a news site this month. (They include directives to clean his bathroom and look after his cat.)
Mr. Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has lived at the embassy since 2012, when he sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden in connection with rape accusations. That case was dropped last year, but he remained there, fearing prosecution in the United States over WikiLeaks’s publishing of leaked government documents.
In a statement, WikiLeaks asserted that pressure had mounted on Ecuador to hand over Mr. Assange to the British authorities, who could arrest him for skipping bail in 2012. Ecuador has a new president, Lenín Moreno, who is more open to engaging with the United States than his predecessor, the leftist Rafael Correa. Mr. Assange’s supporters worry that this means his long stay at the embassy could come to an end.
The new memo called on Mr. Assange to avoid speech or activities that could be considered political or could damage relations between Ecuador and other countries. And it threatened to revoke his asylum if he did not comply with the terms.
The rules stated that he must seek permission to have visitors, and provide their social media profiles and the serial numbers of any electronic devices that they would bring with them. The memo specified that he should connect to the internet using only the embassy’s wireless network, and reiterated that the embassy was not responsible for any of his communications.
It also concerned some more personal matters, including cleaning his bathroom and caring for his cat, which he once told The New Yorker he called Michi, an Ecuadorean word for cat, or Cat-stro. (On Twitter, the animal is known as @EmbassyCat.) The memo threatened to send Michi to an animal shelter if Mr. Assange did not comply.
Noting budget cuts, the memo said that starting in December, it could no longer pay for Mr. Assange’s daily expenses, including food, medical care and laundry.
Mr. Assange, 47, was born in Australia. Ecuador gave him citizenship in January, but some Ecuadorean lawmakers have called for it to be rescinded. WikiLeaks claimed on Twitter on Thursday that the push against him was a result of American pressure, because the Ecuadorean Constitution forbids extradition.
Efforts to reach Mr. Garzón on Friday were not successful.
Ecuador’s foreign minister, José Valencia, said that “of course we are going to respond in an appropriate manner.”
“We have the complete backing of the judiciary on this case since the protocols were adopted in accordance with international standards and the Ecuadorean law,” he said in a statement. The protocols refer to how Assange is treated.
The embassy has suspended Mr. Assange’s internet access several times, citing similar concerns about Ecuador’s relations with other countries. The most recent suspension began in March, after he criticized Western countries for expelling Russian diplomats in the wake of the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. Some of his supporters also speculated that Ecuador was reacting to Mr. Assange’s criticism of the Spanish government over the arrests of Catalan separatists.
In a statement posted online, WikiLeaks also said that the embassy had refused to allow the general counsel of Human Rights Watch, Dinah PoKempner, to visit Mr. Assange.
After that episode, Ms. PoKempner wrote that Mr. Assange’s asylum “is growing more difficult to distinguish from detention,” and she called on Britain to reject extraditing Mr. Assange to the United States.
In a sign of the closer ties between the United States and Ecuador, Mr. Moreno hosted Vice President Mike Pence in June. Democratic senators urged Mr. Pence to press Mr. Moreno on Mr. Assange, saying that WikiLeaks “continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally.” The two did reportedly discuss the case.