Ecuador Unplugs Assange’s Internet in New Diplomatic Row

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures to supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been in self-imposed exile since 2012. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

(CN) – Warning the WikiLeaks founder against meddling in other nations’ affairs, the Ecuadorean government disconnected Julian Assange’s internet connection Wednesday for the second time in less than two years.

When Assange first sought refuge at Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012, the Australian-born WikiLeaks founder faced an extradition order to answer rape allegations in Sweden that he cast as a ruse to put him to U.S. custody.

Six years later, the European arrest warrant has been revoked, but U.K. authorities stand ready to arrest the 46-year-old for defying the extradition order.

Ecuador first cut off Assange’s contact with the outside world in the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as WikiLeaks published a daily barrage of hacked Democratic National Committee emails that arguably tipped the race.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was in power at time, but his successor Lenin Moreno’s patience with Assange also appears to be wearing thin. On Wednesday, Moreno’s administration accused Assange of violating an agreement that he entered last year banning “interference” with other nations.

“The government of Ecuador warns that Assange’s behavior, with his messages on social media, puts at risk the good relations that the nation maintains with the United Kingdom, with the rest of the European Union and other nations,” the government said in a statement in Spanish.

The statement avoids explicit mention of Ecuador’s important alliance with Spain, whom Assange has angered with his vocal support for Catalonian independence.

In recent days, the WikiLeaks account on Twitter repeatedly denounced the recent arrest of separatist leader Carles Puigdemont.

Both U.S. and Spanish observers have spotted a hidden Russian hand behind Assange’s editorial decisions.

Hacker Guccifer 2.0, the self-professed source of the DNC emails, was recently unmasked by the Daily Beast as a Russian military intelligence operative, and the Spanish newspaper El País linked Assange’s advocacy to a Russian plot to destabilize the European Union through Spain.

Denying any collaboration with Russia, Assange labeled the Spanish newspaper’s report defamatory in an interview on Wednesday with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“I have supported Article One of the United Nations: There must be self-determination for peoples, not self-determination for every family or small town, but self-determination for a people,” Assange told the outlet.

“Catalans have their own language, culture and so they are a people,” he added.

Assange’s invocation of the United Nations appears pointed: The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention demanded his release two years ago.

Though that report labeled Assange’s embassy stay as prolonging his deprivation of liberty, Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot with the Westminster Magistrates’ Court skewered such findings at a hearing last month.

There is a “distinction between being held in Wandsworth Prison and living in the embassy,” the judge had said.

“Firstly, he can leave the embassy whenever he wishes; secondly, he is free to receive, it would seem, an unlimited number of visitors and those visits are not supervised; thirdly, he can choose the food he eats, the time he sleeps and exercises,” Arbuthnot wrote. “He can sit on the balcony (I accept probably observed by the police and his supporters) to take the air. He is not locked in at night. Importantly for a man who spends a great deal of time on his computer, he is free to use multimedia, whether his computer or a mobile telephone, in a way that prisoners are not allowed to do. I suspect if one were to ask one of the men incarcerated in Wandsworth Prison whether conditions in the Ecuadorian Embassy were akin to a remand in custody, the prisoner would dispute the Working Group’s assertion.”

%d bloggers like this: