Ecuador says Assange's internet cut over US election leaks

Ecuadorean government rejects WikiLeaks' claims that Assange's internet was cut at the behest of the US secretary of state and says country took the step as it did not want to meddle in the US election processes.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Julian Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks speaks via video link during a press conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin, Germany, October 4, 2016.

Ecuador's government said on Tuesday it had partly restricted internet access for Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks who has lived in the South American country's London embassy since mid-2012.

WikiLeaks on Monday alleged that Assange's internet access was cut Saturday after the anti-secrecy group published private speeches by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to Goldman Sachs.

In a series of tweets beginning late Monday, the anti-secrecy website said it learned from "multiple US sources" that Ecuador cut off Assange's internet connection at the behest of US Secretary of State John Kerry. 

Ecuador's leftist government said WikiLeaks' decision to publish documents impacting the US election was entirely its own responsibility, and the country did not want to meddle in election processes or favour any candidate.

"In that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in its UK Embassy," it added in a statement. "Ecuador does not cede to pressures from other countries."

Assange has been staying at the Ecuadorean embassy in London 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.

The Ecuadorean government's statement comes hours after the United States had also denied the charges from WikiLeaks.

State Department spokesperson John Kirby, in a brief statement, said that Washington had not played any role in the move to restict Assange's internet.

He also denied a WikiLeaks tweet alleging that "John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing Clinton docs during FARC peace negotiations" — a conversation alleged to have taken place on the sidelines of the Colombia-FARC peace agreement signing September 26.

"While our concerns about WikiLeaks are longstanding, any suggestion that Secretary Kerry or the State Department were involved in shutting down WikiLeaks is false," Kirby said. 

"Reports that Secretary Kerry had conversations with Ecuadorian officials about this are simply untrue. Period."

On Saturday, WikiLeaks published three private, paid speeches Clinton made to Wall Street investment giant Goldman Sachs, after she left her position as secretary of state and before launching her White House bid.

Clinton's campaign team, which has not contested the authenticity of the documents, has accused the Russian government for the hacks, and accused WikiLeaks of seeking to help Clinton's Republican rival for the presidency Donald Trump.


TRTWorld and agencies