WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange complained that his court-appointed translator was “not good enough,” prompting a judge overseeing his lawsuit against Ecuador to put a pause on proceedings to find a replacement fluent in “Australian,” news outlets reported Friday.
Judge Karina Martinez cut Thursday’s hearing short in response to Mr. Assange’s protest and ordered the appointment of a translator better equipped to interpret matters for the Australian-born fugitive, the Sydney Morning Herald first reported.
Mr. Assange filed the lawsuit through an attorney last week in response to the Ecuadorian government imposing new conditions on his asylum status, and Thursday’s hearing in Quito, the nation’s capital, was the first to be held by the court considering his case.
Speaking remotely from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Mr. Assange complained about the quality of the translation service prior to the judge agreeing to suspend proceedings, The Herald reported.
The initial hearing last roughly 90 minutes prior to being suspended due to “communication problems,” Spanish media separately reported.
WikiLeaks did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Mr. Assange, 46, entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 and was subsequently granted asylum, effectively protecting him against the possibility of being prosecuted in the U.S. in relation to releasing classified government material through the WikiLeaks website.
His relationship with Ecuador has grown increasingly tense, however, and WikiLeaks lawyer Baltasar Garzon sued the nation’s foreign minister last week in response to new rules governing Mr. Assange’s conduct inside the embassy, including restrictions on his internet and phone access.
“The protocol makes Assange’s political asylum contingent on censoring his freedom of opinion, speech and association,” WikiLeaks said in a statement announcing the suit.
Responding in court Thursday, Ecuador’s vice minister of foreign affairs, Andrés Terán, said the lawsuit was “paradoxical,” “illogical” and filed with an “irresponsibility” toward the “democratic state that has welcomed him,” according to Agencia EFE, a Spanish news agency covering the proceedings.
“He is (there) of his own free will and (…) he has to abide by the rules imposed by the asylum country, it is as simple as that!” said Mr. Terán, the outlet reported.
British authorities have said that Mr. Assange will be arrested upon exiting the embassy, at which point he would risk being extradited to the U.S. and tried in relation to releasing classified documents including U.S. diplomatic and military secrets.
Mr. Assange would possibly surrender to U.K. authorities if he is spared a trip abroad, another one of his lawyers said Friday.
“In British justice, he could even be sentenced to three to six months’ imprisonment,” said the lawyer, Carlos Poveda, AFP reported. “But what is being requested from the legal team is that there is a necessary assurance that after that sentence he will not be extradited to the United States.”