Assange 'split' Ecuador and Spain over Catalan independence

By On May 16, 2018

Assange 'split' Ecuador and Spain over Catalan independence

Operation Hotel Julian Assange Operation Hotel Assange 'split' Ecuador and Spain over Catalan independence

WikiLeaks founder met separatists and tweeted on the issue, which sources say triggered a backlash from Madrid

Play Video 1:58
Superfans, boiled sweets and Pamela Anderson: ​six years spying on Julian Assange â€" video explainer

Julian Assange’s intervention on Catalan independence created a rift between the WikiLeaks founder and the Ecuadorian government, which has hosted Assange for nearly six years in its London embass y, the Guardian has learned.

Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said Assange’s support for the separatists, including a meeting in November, led to a backlash from Spain, which in turn caused deep concern within Ecuador’s government.

While Assange’s role in the US presidential election has been an intense focus of US prosecutors, his involvement in Spanish politics appears to have caused Ecuador the most pain.

Revealed: Ecuador spent millions on spy operation for Julian Assange Read more

The Ecuadorians cut Assange’s internet connection and ended his access to visitors on 28 March, saying he had breached an agreement at the end of last year not to issue messages that might interfere with other states.

Quito has been looking to find a solution to what it increasingly sees as an untenable situation: hosting one of the world’s most wanted men.

Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy i   n London Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Julian Assange appears in front of the media on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in London in May 2017. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

In November 2017, Assange hosted two supporters of the Catalan independence movement, whose push for secession from Spain had plunged the country into its worst political crisis since returning to democracy.Assange has said he supported the right to “self-determination” and argued against “repression” from Madrid.

How Julian Assange became an unwelcome guest in Ecuador's embassy Read more

He was visited by Oriol Soler, a Catalan businessman and publisher, and Arnau Grinyó, an expert in online communications ca mpaigns. Their meeting, which was reported by the Spanish press, took place a little over a month after the unilateral Catalan independence referendum, and 13 days after the Spanish government responded to the unilateral declaration of independence by sacking the administration of the then Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and assuming direct control of the region.

Assange has been a vocal critic of Madrid’s handling of the Catalan crisis and described the independence movement as “the redefinition of the relationship between people and state”, and “the most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhi”.

Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange)

What is occurring in Catalonia is the redefinition of the relationship between people and state. The most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhi. Its results will spread everywhere. pic.twitter.com/sS8XRXfota

October 14, 2017

Though Assange’s supporters deny he expl icitly supported Catalan independence, his tweets and videos on the issue annoyed the Spanish government.

A Spanish diplomat told the Guardian that Spain “conveyed a message” to Ecuadorian authorities that Assange was using social media to support the secessionist movement and sending out messages “that are at odds with reality”.

“Spain and Ecuador are obviously countries that maintain a constant and fluid dialogue in which matters of interest to both parties, including this issue, are raised and discussed,” the diplomat said.

“Spain has, on a number of occasions, informed the Ecuadorian authorities of its concerns over the activities that Julian Assange has engaged in while in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.”

Why does Ecuador want Assange out of its London embassy? Read more

The source said Spain’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, had also addressed the issue when it arose in November, saying attempts had been made “ to intervene, manipulate and affect what should be the natural democratic course of events in Catalonia”.

In December, Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, reminded Assange that he should refrain from trying to intervene in Ecuadorian politics.

Q&A

What would happen if Julian Assange left the Ecuadorian embassy?

Show Hide

Julian Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in central London since August 2012. He initially sought asylum following a series of legal challenges through British courts to a European arrest warrant issued by Sweden, where he was accused of rape and sexual assault, which he denies.

In February, a judge upheld a warrant for his arrest for skipping bail, meaning that although Swedish prosecutors have dropped their investigation into alleged sexual offences, Assange faces being arrested if he leaves the embassy, and fears he would be subsequently extradited to the US for questioning about WikiLeaks’ activities.

Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP Was this helpful? Thank you for your feedback.

US intelligence agencies and Spanish authorities have separately claimed that Russia has had a hand in their domestic affairs. US agencies have accused WikiLeaks of working with Russian intelligence to try to disrupt the US election by releasing hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Spanish officials have suggested that much of the messaging on social media about the Catalan crisis originated in Russia.

Soler and Grinyó declined to comment on their meeting with Assange. However, in a tweet written four days after visiting the embassy, Soler said the Catalan independence movement sympathised with Assange, as its leaders and activists had “suffered jail, exile, spying, censorship, injustice, fake news and financial blockadesâ €. The visit, he added, had been transparent and legal.

In 2016, Assange met two members of the anti-austerity party Podemos, according to visitor logs obtained by the Guardian in conjunction with the magazine Focus Ecuador.

They were Pablo Bustinduy, the foreign affairs spokesman, and Miguel Ongil, a deputy in the Madrid regional assembly and a party funding, transparency and anti-corruption expert. Podemos opposed a unilateral referendum on secession, but said it would in principle have supported an independence referendum agreed between the Spanish and Catalan governments.

A spokesman for Podemos told the Guardian: “Pablo Bustinduy visited Assange in the embassy while on a trip to London to take part in the pro-remain Brexit campaign. He was accompanied by Miguel Ongil, a specialist in the fields of transparency and political participation.

“It was an informal visit, during which they discussed the issues of protecting whistleblowers, freedom of e xpression and information in Europe, and democracy on the internet. They also inquired after his legal situation.”

A spokesperson for Ecuador’s foreign ministry said: “[We reiterate that] Ecuador maintains excellent and fraternal relations with Spain and the vast majority of countries.”

This article was written in collaboration with Fernando Villavicencio and Cristina Solórzano from Focus Ecuador

Topics Operation Hotel
  • Julian Assange
  • Operation Hotel
  • Catalonia
  • Ecuador
  • WikiLeaks
  • Spain
  • Europe
  • news
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
  • Share on LinkedIn
  • Share on Pinterest
  • Share on Google+
  • Share on WhatsApp
  • Share on Messenger
  • Reuse this content
Source: Google News Spain | Netizen 24 Spain

Next
« Prev Post
Previous
Next Post »