Ecuador 'temporarily restricts' Assange internet over US election leaks
Daniel Leal-Olivas (AFP/File)
Ecuador on Tuesday said it had restricted the internet access of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up at its London embassy since 2012, due to leaks by the anti-secrecy website that could impact the US election.
The foreign ministry said that while it still stands by its 2012 decision to grant Assange asylum based on legitimate concerns that he could face political persecution, it respects other nations' sovereignty and doesn't interfere or support any candidate in foreign elections.
"The decision to make this information public is the exclusive responsibility of the WikiLeaks organization," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. It does not interfere in external electoral processes, nor does it favor any particular candidate," the Ecuadoran foreign ministry said in a statement.
In consequence, the ministry said, it decided to "temporarily restrict" communications at the embassy.
WikiLeaks has published a damaging trove of hacked emails from US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign in recent weeks.
On Monday it accused Ecuador of cutting off Assange's internet communications at the behest of US Secretary of State John Kerry.
The United States and Ecuador implicitly denied the claims.
"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 told the Associated Press in an email.
"There just was no meeting," Kirby said. "They didn't discuss any of this stuff."
Speaking to reporters later, deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Kerry never even raised the issue or met with Correa during his visit to Colombia.
"Ecuador's foreign policy responds to sovereign decisions alone and does not yield to pressure from other states," an Ecuadorian statement read.
Ecuador reaffirmed its decision to grant Assange asylum, and said the restriction on communications at its embassy did not hinder WikiLeaks itself.
"This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities," it said.
Assange fled to Ecuador's London embassy in June 2012.
The 45-year-old Australian is fighting extradition to Sweden to face a rape accusation.
He denies the allegation and says he fears Sweden wants to hand him over to the United States to face trial for the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified US military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
(staff with agencies)
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