Ecuador muzzles WikiLeaks' Assange, citing threat to global relations

Ecuador muzzles WikiLeaks' Assange, citing threat to global relations

Ecuador muzzles WikiLeaks' Assange, citing threat to global relations

Assange used social media on Monday to criticize the United Kingdom government's decision to expel Russian diplomats after London accused Moscow of involvement in the poisoning Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy residing in the United Kingdom, and his daughter.

He has since gone silent on social media.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum in the South American nation's London embassy in 2012, where he has remained cooped up ever since.

The decision from the Ecuadorean government came after Mr Assange on Monday used Twitter to challenge Britain's accusation that Russia was responsible for the March 4 nerve agent poisoning of a Russian former double agent in the English city of Salisbury.

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Relations between Mr Assange and his host nation have often grown prickly.

The Ecuadorean government is anxious that Assange's use of social media can hurt the "good relations the country keeps with the United Kingdom, other countries in the European Union and other nations", and said it was prepared to take further actions if Assange keeps breaking his commitment.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said Wednesday that a delegation would meet with Assange's lawyers in London next week "to explore what alternatives" existed to have Assange be able to leave the embassy.

Assange's internet access was also interrupted in 2016 after a WikiLeaks dump targeting Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

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Assange argued that Sweden would eventually extradite him to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' publication of leaked classified military and diplomatic documents.

Former President Rafael Correa hailed Assange's work but his successor Moreno, who took office in May 2017, has called him a hacker and warned him not to meddle in politics.

Assange, 46, has spent much of his time in his small room in the embassy tweeting and at times contributing to RT, a Russian state-owned television channel that broadcasts Kremlin messaging, as well as taking part in media conferences via video link.

Swedish prosecutors has been investigating Assange because of rape allegations by two women, and British authorities issued a warrant for his arrest for what they said was jumping bail.

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Now, for at least the second time, Assange's internet connection has been cut off.

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