WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had his internet shut down by the government of Ecuador after his platform leaked documents about US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the website says.
The anti-secrecy website at first said on its Twitter feed the internet had been cut by a “state party”, but later clarified the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange has sought asylum, had cut the internet access.
“We can confirm Ecuador cut off Assange’s internet access Saturday, 5pm GMT, shortly after publication of (Hillary) Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speechs (sic),” the statement from WikiLeaks said.
The incident prompted questions about whether the move was part of US efforts to retaliate against Russia for the alleged hacking of Democratic Party computers earlier this year.
“I’m not in a position to confirm whether that is true or not just because I’m not in a position to confirm or deny any sort of classified operation on the part of the United States of America,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, but implied US President Barack Obama was still weighing the response for the hacking.
Assange has lived and worked in Ecuador’s London embassy since June 2012 after a British court ordered him extradited to Sweden to face questioning in a sexual molestation case involving two female WikiLeaks supporters.
WikiLeaks said Assange lost internet connectivity on Sunday night.
“We have activated the appropriate contingency plans,” added the Twitter message on Monday.
People close to WikiLeaks say Assange himself is the principal operator of the website’s Twitter feed.
During the past two weeks, Democratic Party officials and US government agencies have accused the Russian government, including the country’s “senior-most officials”, of pursuing a campaign of cyber attacks against Democratic Party organisations before the November 8 US presidential election.
WikiLeaks has been one of the most prominent internet outlets to post and promote hacked Democratic Party materials.
While denying any connection with a Russian hacking campaign, Assange has refused to disclose WikiLeaks’ sources for hacked Democratic Party messages.
Sources close to the Democratics and WikiLeaks say they believe WikiLeaks has acquired as many as 40,000-50,000 emails hacked from the personal accounts of John Podesta, the former White House adviser who chairs Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Despite Assange’s complaint his internet connection was cut, WikiLeaks posted on Monday afternoon what it said was a fresh batch of Podesta’s emails.
Ecuador’s government offered no immediate comment on the question of internet access but the country’s foreign minister, Guillaume Long, said Assange remained under government protection.
“The circumstances that led to the granting of asylum remain,” Long said in a statement late on Monday.