The good news is that it appears Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s cat is alive in the Ecuadorian embassy. The bad news is Assange needs to be told by the Ecuadorian government to care for the cat or he’ll have to find it a new home.
For the last six years, Assange has been hiding in Ecuador’s diplomatic outpost in London. Ecuador’s new regime, however, does not like Assange causing trouble with other governments around the world and cut off his internet access in March. Over the weekend, Ecuador outlined several conditions that must be met for him to regain his wifi privileges, receive visitors, and remain in the embassy. The Guardian obtained a copy of the document that outlines the new terms of his stay.
The memo was first published by the Ecuadorian website Código Vidrio and is in Spanish. According to a Google translation, Ecuador says Assange’s continued asylum is contingent on avoiding any activity that could be considered political or interfering in the internal affairs of other states. The document also demands that Assange assume responsibility for the “welfare, nutrition, cleanliness, and proper care” of his pet cat and “the cleaning and hygiene of the bathroom and other spaces” he uses inside the embassy.
Additionally, Assange’s online activity is restricted to the use of his personal computer or phone on the embassy’s wifi. He’s previously been accused of “compromising” the embassy’s communications systems and is now prohibited from bringing in any electronic equipment that hasn’t been explicitly authorized.
Short of complete eviction, the document threatens “the immediate disconnection of internet access” if he violates its communication provisions and states the embassy will ask him to “deliver the pet to another person” if he fails to properly care for his cat.
Assange first took asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid charges by the British government related to skipping bail in 2012 and fears extradition to the U.S. if he steps foot outside. In that time, the reputation of Wikileaks as a hard-charging defender of whistleblowers and an opponent of corruption has withered. And Assange has increasingly shown himself to be a top-grade asshole. When a 10-week-old kitten showed up as a gift from his children, in 2016, it was the perfect prop to help soften his image—especially when the kitty wore custom neckties.
It turned out the cat was, in reality, too perfect a prop. Last year, one of his associates told the New Yorker that the story about his children gifting the kitten was a lie. Even its name is unclear. At times its been known as “Cat-stro,” “Michi,” and “Embassy Cat.” Now, Assange’s relationship with the Ecuadorian government and its newest president, Lenín Moreno, is strained and the embassy is apparently in no mood to take care of the cat.
In September, Assange resigned as the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks and turned over the reins to Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson. That decision was believed to be an attempt to get his internet access restored and also motivated by the fact that it’s impractical to run an online publication while living a strictly IRL life.
Assange’s lawyer, Carlos Poveda, told The Guardian his client has not been given online access yet and that he’s incapable of reading the memo because it hasn’t been translated into English. Poveda protested the conditions that Assange is being subjected to saying, “This new regime goes against his basic human dignity as an asylee.”
It’s a difficult situation for Assange, but at least he can communicate (offline, for now) with those who advocate for him in the outside world. Meanwhile, the cat is stuck with a megalomaniac who has to be ordered to take care of its basic needs while dressing it up in a series of cute costumes to gain collateral sympathy.