20 Oct 2016

Ecuador confirms it cut Assange's internet access

11:18 am on 20 October 2016

Ecuador has acknowledged it partly restricted internet access for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is taking refuge at its London embassy.

Julian Assange addresses media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London earlier this year

Julian Assange addresses media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London earlier this year Photo: AFP

It said Mr Assange had released material in recent weeks that could have an impact on the US presidential election.

Ecuador also said its move was not the result of pressure from Washington.

The US denied WikiLeaks' accusations that it had asked Ecuador to stop the site publishing documents about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Transparency activist Julian Assange has sought asylum at London's Ecuadorean embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations.

In a statement in Spanish, the Ecuadorean foreign ministry said WikiLeaks' decision to publish documents could have an impact on the US presidential election.

The release was entirely the responsibility of the organisation, and Ecuador did not want to interfere in the electoral process, it said.

"In that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in its UK Embassy," the statement said.

It added that Ecuador "does not yield to pressures from other countries".

WikiLeaks earlier said that Ecuador had cut off Mr Assange's internet access on Saturday evening.

The site has recently been releasing material from Hillary Clinton's campaign, including those from a hack of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's emails.

It released transcripts on Saturday of paid speeches Mrs Clinton made to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs in the past, which her campaign had long refused to release.

The scripts reveal bantering exchanges with bank executives, which correspondents say may increase concerns among liberal Democrats that she is too cosy with Wall Street.

Mrs Clinton's camp has claimed the cyber-breach was orchestrated by Russian hackers with the aim of undermining the US democratic process.

While her team neither confirmed nor denied the leaked emails are authentic, there have been no indications they are fake.

According to the latest leaked emails, Mrs Clinton told a Goldman Sachs conference she would like to intervene secretly in Syria.

She made the remark in answer to a question from Lloyd Blankfein, the bank's chief executive, in 2013 - months after she left office as secretary of state.

"My view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene," she told employees of the bank in South Carolina, which had paid her about $225,000 [NZ$311,000] to give a speech."

Mrs Clinton - who is accused of being hawkish by liberal critics - added: "We used to be much better at this than we are now. Now, you know, everybody can't help themselves.

"They have to go out and tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: Look what we're doing and I want credit for it."

-BBC