QUITO – The Ecuadorian government confirmed on Tuesday that it cut the Internet connection of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is holed up at the Andean nation’s embassy in Britain.
“The government of Ecuador respects the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries, of not intervening in ongoing electoral processes or supporting a particular candidate,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
WikiLeaks has been disseminating the contents of hacked e-mails from John Podesta, campaign chairman for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Democrats and the administration of President Barack Obama accuse WikiLeaks of being part of an alleged Russian effort to influence the election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.
After disclosing that Assange’s Internet connection had been cut, WikiLeaks said Tuesday that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing classified Clinton documents related to peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels.
“Multiple U.S. sources tell us John Kerry asked Ecuador to stop Assange from publishing Clinton docs during FARC peace negotiations,” WikiLeaks said on Twitter, eliciting an immediate denial from the U.S. State Department.
Assange has been stuck at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since the summer of 2012, as the British government refuses to allow him safe passage to the airport to board a plane for Ecuador, where he has been granted political asylum.
The Australian citizen sought refuge at the Ecuadorian mission in June 2012 after losing a long battle in the British courts to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors want to question him about sexual misconduct allegations dating back to 2010.
Assange, who denies the accusations, has said that once he is in Swedish custody, U.S. prosecutors will indict him for espionage and Washington will pressure Stockholm into handing him over.
The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Assange was given asylum in 2012 “based on his legitimate fears of political persecution due to his journalistic activities as editor of WikiLeaks.”
“During recent weeks, WikiLeaks has published a great quantity of documents that have an impact on the electoral campaign in the United States,” the ministry said.
“In exercise of its sovereign rights, (Ecuador) has temporarily restricted access to the communications system in its embassy in the United Kingdom,” the statement said, adding that the restriction is not preventing WikiLeaks from conducting journalistic activities.
“Ecuador, consistent with its tradition of defense of human rights, especially with victims of political persecution, reaffirms the asylum conceded to Julian Assange and reiterates its intention to safeguard his life and physical integrity until he can relocate to a safe place,” the foreign ministry said.
Ecuadorian foreign policy “responds exclusively to sovereign decisions and does not cede to pressure from other countries,” the ministry said.