Ecuador acknowledges limiting Julian Assange’s web access
QUITO – ReutersEcuador said Oct. 18 that it had cut the internet access of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up at its London embassy, due to leaks by the anti-secrecy website that could impact the U.S. election.
WikiLeaks said Assange lost connectivity on Oct. 16, sparking speculation Ecuador might have been pressured by the United States due to the group’s publication of hacked material linked to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Ecuador’s leftist government said WikiLeaks’ decision to publish documents impacting the U.S. election was entirely its own responsibility, and the country did not want to meddle in election processes or favor any candidate.
“In that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in its U.K. Embassy,” it added in a statement.
“Ecuador does not cede to pressures from other countries.”
Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador after a British court ordered him extradited to Sweden to face questioning in a sexual molestation case involving two female supporters.
WikiLeaks said it activated “contingency plans” after Assange’s cut-off, and Ecuador said that its action did not stop the group continuing “journalistic activities.”
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has long backed Assange’s right to free speech and has also supported Clinton publicly. “For the good of the United States and the world ... I would like Hillary to win,” he told broadcaster Russia Today last month.
U.S. officials have formally blamed state-sponsored Russian hackers for the hacking of internal emails from the Democratic Party and other institutions.
On Oct. 17, WikiLeaks accused Ecuador of cutting off Assange’s internet communications at the behest of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, citing “multiple U.S. sources.”
The United States denied the allegation.
“While our concerns about WikiLeaks are longstanding, any suggestion that Secretary Kerry or the State Department were involved in shutting down WikiLeaks is false,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Oct. 18, AFP reported.