Ecuador has confirmed that it cut off internet access to Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks, stating it believed he was using it to interfere in the US presidential election.
WikiLeaks, including some from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) released just before the party’s convention in July, and more recently a cache of emails from the account of Hillary Clinton campaign adviser John Podesta.
On Tuesday, officials released a statement saying that the government of Ecuador “respects the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states” and had cut off the internet access available to Assange because “in recent weeks, WikiLeaks has published a wealth of documents, impacting on the US election campaign”.
The statement also reaffirmed the asylum granted to Assange and reiterated its intention “to safeguard his life and physical integrity until he reaches a safe place”.
Assange’s internet access was cut off on Monday morning. It was not immediately clear who was responsible, though a tweet from the site’s official account claimed it had been “intentionally severed” by a “state party”.
It is not known who perpetrated the hacks that brought the emails to WikiLeaks. Assange’s organization styles itself a whistleblowing outfit and claims not to do or encourage any hacking itself.
Yet cybersecurity experts have linked the hack of the DNC emails to hackers tied to the Russian government, leading many – including Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook – to allege that Russia is using both hackers and Assange as tools to help rig the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
WikiLeaks was responsible for the release, in collaboration with several news organizations including the Guardian, of an explosive set of documents leaked by US army private Chelsea Manning, including a video titled Collateral Murder that showed a US air crew killing Iraqi civilians.
Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden for two alleged sexual assaults in 2010 and is under investigation in the US under the Espionage Act. Manning, who leaked the information, is currently in military prison.
Assange has been encamped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since being granted asylum in 2012.