Ecuador said Tuesday 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 US election.
WikiLeaks has in recent weeks published a damaging trove of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, which accuses it of trying to sway the election in favor of Republican Donald Trump.
“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.
US officials have formally blamed state-sponsored Russian hackers for the hacking of internal emails from the Democratic Party and other institutions.
On Monday WikiLeaks accused Ecuador of cutting off Assange’s internet communications at the behest of US Secretary of State John Kerry, citing “multiple US 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,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
“Reports that Secretary Kerry had conversations with Ecuadorian officials about this are simply untrue. Period.”
Ecuador also implicitly denied the claim in its statement.
“Ecuador’s foreign policy responds to sovereign decisions alone and does not yield to pressure from other states,” it said.
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.
– International intrigue –
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 leak of hundreds of thousands of classified US military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
WikiLeaks, which surged into the international spotlight with that hoard of damaging leaks, has returned to the headlines this month thanks to the hacking of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account.
Clinton’s campaign has blamed the Russian government for hacking the data, a view shared by the US government.
Washington last week accused Moscow of trying to “interfere” in the 2016 White House race by directing the cyber attacks, vowing to respond at an undisclosed time and place.
The Kremlin has dismissed the charges.
In the latest batch of leaked documents, WikiLeaks published three private, paid speeches Clinton made to Wall Street investment giant Goldman Sachs after standing down as secretary of state and before launching her White House bid.
Clinton’s campaign team has not contested the authenticity of the documents.