LONDON • Ecuador yesterday said it had cut off Mr Julian Assange's access to the Internet in his exile in the country's London embassy, making it clear that it feared being sucked into an effort to "interfere in electoral processes" in the US by the WikiLeaks founder's activities.
Ecuador said it is not evicting Mr Assange from its embassy, where he sought asylum four years ago.
It said its "temporary restriction" of Internet services to Mr Assange "does not prevent the WikiLeaks organisation from carrying out its journalistic activities". But it was clearly intended to keep the embassy from being the control centre for that leaking operation.
The Internet cutoff was the latest twist in the odd tale of Mr Assange's self-imposed exile, which began in 2012 when he sought refuge from a Swedish rape investigation that he said was a cover for an effort by the United States to extradite him.
Ecuador's decision was the first sign that the government in Quito was starting to wonder if its guest in London was overstaying his welcome. It doubtless was considering the possibility that, should Mrs Hillary Clinton prevail in the US presidential election next month, it would have to explain its role as host to the man who appears to have coordinated the publication of e-mails purloined from people close to her, along with those of the Democratic National Committee and other organisations.
In a Sept 30 interview, Ecuador President Rafael Correa told Russia Today's Spanish-language outlet that a win for Mrs Clinton would be preferable for the US and the world. "I want Hillary, whom I know and appreciate greatly, to win," he said.
Only hours before Ecuador's announcement, WikiLeaks charged that US Secretary of State John Kerry had quietly urged the Ecuadorean government, in a meeting late last month, to stop Mr Assange from publishing the e-mails or interfering in the election.
The State Department said the reports were untrue.
Ecuador's action is unlikely to slow the flow of leaked e-mails, however. Those e-mails are routed through servers around the globe.