Ecuador says it has decided to temporarily cut off WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's internet access, citing the group's interference in the U.S. presidential election, though the government indicated that it has no plans to evict him from its London embassy.
"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 foreign ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday.
As a result, the Ecuadorian government decided to "temporarily restrict access" to parts of its private communications network at its embassy in London. "This temporary restriction does not prevent the WikiLeaks organization from carrying out its journalistic activities," the ministry said.
WikiLeaks said Assange's internet access was cut on Saturday evening, just two hours after the group released its 8th batch of emails that were stolen from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. The release of Podesta emails has continued without interruption.
Despite deciding to cut Assange's internet access for now, the government indicated that it has no plans to evict him from its London embassy, where he has been holed up since the summer of 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault.
"Ecuador, in accordance with its tradition of defending human rights and protecting the victims of political persecution, reaffirms the asylum granted to Julian Assange and reiterates its intention to safeguard his life and physical integrity until he reaches a safe place," the ministry added.
The accusations against Assange are unrelated to his work for WikiLeaks, which brought diplomatic earthquakes to the United States when it began releasing classified documents it had obtained. Assange, however, has claimed that the cases are politically-motivated and maintains that the sexual encounters in Sweden were consensual.
A London court dismissed Assange's appeal in November 2011 and the UK Supreme Court in June 2012 rejected his bid to reopen the case, after which Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which British police are unable to enter. Police have said they will arrest Assange once he leaves the embassy compound.
Assange also fears extradition to the United States if he were to be extradited to Sweden.
Wikileaks' first big scoop was on April 5, 2010, when it released a classified video which showed a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists. Assange said in earlier interviews that he had been told to expect 'dirty tricks' from the Pentagon, including 'sex traps' to ruin his reputation.
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