QUITO – Ecuador's government acknowledged on Tuesday it had partly restricted internet access for Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks who has lived in the South American country's London embassy since mid-2012.
WikiLeaks said Assange lost connectivity on Sunday, sparking speculation Ecuador might have been pressured by the United States due to the group's publication of hacked material linked to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Ecuador's leftist government said WikiLeaks' decision to publish documents impacting the U.S. election was entirely its own responsibility, and the country did not want to meddle in election processes or favor any candidate.
"In that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in its UK Embassy," it added in a statement.
"Ecuador does not cede to pressures from other countries."
Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador after a British court ordered him extradited to Sweden to face questioning in a sexual molestation case involving two female supporters.
WikiLeaks said it activated "contingency plans" after Assange's cut-off, and Ecuador said that its action did not stop the group continuing "journalistic activities."
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has long backed Assange's right to free speech and has also supported Clinton publicly. "For the good of the United States and the world … I would like Hillary to win," he told broadcaster Russia Today last month.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia)