Mys­tery swirls around As­sange’s sta­tus at Ecuadorean Em­bassy

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

PARIS: Mid­way through re­leas­ing a se­ries of dam­ag­ing dis­clo­sures about US pres­i­den­tial con­tender Hil­lary Clin­ton, Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange says his hosts at the Ecuadorean Em­bassy in London abruptly cut him off from the internet. The news adds an­other layer of in­trigue to an ex­tra­or­di­nary campaign. “We can con­firm Ecuador cut off As­sange’s internet ac­cess Satur­day, 5pm GMT, shortly after pub­li­ca­tion of Clin­ton’s Gold­man Sachs (speeches),” the group said in a mes­sage posted to Twit­ter late Mon­day.

With both Wik­iLeaks and Ecuadorean of­fi­cials re­fus­ing to say much more about the in­ci­dent, out­siders were left to guess at what was hap­pen­ing be­hind closed doors at the em­bassy suite at No. 3 Hans Cres­cent, a stucco-fronted build­ing which As­sange has called home for more than four years. Had Ecuadorean diplo­mats lost pa­tience with their fa­mous Aus­tralian house­guest? Had they fi­nally bowed to pres­sure from Wash­ing­ton to muz­zle the out­spo­ken ex-hacker fol­low­ing one rev­e­la­tion too many? Had there been some other kind of con­fronta­tion?

Wik­iLeaks said un­spec­i­fied “con­tin­gency plans” were in place and its Twit­ter ac­count was still ac­tive Tuesday. On Mon­day it re­leased the lat­est tranche of emails from se­nior Clin­ton ally John Podesta, sug­gest­ing that, for now at least, the group’s abil­ity to pub­lish has not been com­pro­mised. The dis­clo­sure was the 10th in­stal­la­tion in a se­ries of leaks which have cap­tured the work­ings of Clin­ton’s inner cir­cle and in­cluded ex­cerpts of her well-com­pen­sated speeches to in­vest­ment bank Gold­man Sachs.

Wik­iLeaks staffers Kristinn Hrafns­son and Sarah Har­ri­son did not re­turn re­peated mes­sages seek­ing com­ment. A woman who an­swered the phone at the em­bassy said she was not au­tho­rized to say any­thing. Ecuador’s For­eign Min­is­ter Guil­laume Long, approached by The As­so­ci­ated Press on the side­lines of a United Na­tions con­fer­ence in Quito on Mon­day, de­clined to com­ment when asked about As­sange. His of­fice later re­leased a terse state­ment in response to “the spec­u­la­tion of the last few hours” reaf­firm­ing As­sange’s asy­lum sta­tus and say­ing that “his pro­tec­tion by the Ecuadorean state will con­tinue while the cir­cum­stances that led to the grant­ing of asy­lum re­main.” The state­ment made no men­tion of As­sange’s internet ac­cess. — AP

In this file photo, Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange par­tic­i­pates via video link at a news con­fer­ence mark­ing the 10th an­niver­sary of the se­crecy-spilling group in Berlin. — AP

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