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Ecuador admits it cut off Assange's internet

October 19, 2016

Ecuador has confirmed it cut WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange off from the internet. The whistleblower has spent the past four years holed up at in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid sexual assault charges in Sweden.

Julian Assange Gründer WikiLeaks
Image: picture alliance/empics/D. Lipinski

Ecuador's government acknowledged restricting Julian Assange's internet access after WikiLeaks published campaign documents from US Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"The government of Ecuador respects the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other states," the Foreign Ministry announced in a statement Tuesday.    

Assange was cut off during an embarrassing run for Clinton's campaign as she attempts to close the door to the White House on the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. Several tranches of emails to and from Clinton adviser John Podesta reveal concerns about the candidate's coziness with Wall Street banks, her support for an environmentally hazardous method of natural gas extraction known as fracking and comfort with the notion of covert actions by the US military - provided that it stay secret. Had the emails been released months ago, there could have been a very different result in the former secretary of state's run against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for one of the US's two major-party presidential nominations.

WikiLeaks won't reveal the source of the emails to and from Podesta, a longtime Clinton loyalist and a White House aide to her husband, Bill. US intelligence officials have claimed that agents working on behalf of Russia's government have hacked the Clinton campaign's emails in an attempt to carry out a Kremlin plot to interfere in the election to replace President Barack Obama.

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Under US orders?

The whistleblower site accuses Ecuador of cutting off Assange's internet at the behest of US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry. The United States denied the allegation.

Ecuador's Foreign Ministry also denied the claim. "Ecuador's foreign policy responds to sovereign decisions alone and does not yield to pressure from other states," according to the statement, which assured that the restriction on communications at the embassy "does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities."

President Rafael Correa has expressed a preference for Clinton. "For the United States, I'd like the winner to be Hillary, whom I also know personally and appreciate very much," Correa told the Russian propaganda broadcaster RT in an interview in September.

Facing sexual assault allegations from two women in Sweden, Assange received asylum in Ecuador's London embassy in June 2012 and has been there since, fearing that UK officials would extradite him to Sweden, which could turn him over to the United States.

The Obama administration has embarked on an anti-whistleblower campaign. In summer, Chelsea Manning attempted suicide in the prison where she is serving a 35-year sentence for revealing a US helicopter attack on civilians in Iraq. Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden fled to Russia after he exposed the extent of US spying on the electronic communications of people around the world.

mkg/jr (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)