Assange 'split' Ecuador and Spain over Catalan independence
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
Julian Assangeâs 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 Assangeâs support for the separatists, including a meeting in November, led to a backlash from Spain, which in turn caused deep concern within Ecuadorâs government.
While Assangeâs 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 Assangeâs 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 worldâs most wanted men.
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 âself-determinationâ and argued against ârepressionâ 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 GrinyÃ³, 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 Madridâs handling of the Catalan crisis and described the independence movement as âthe redefinition of the relationship between people and stateâ, and âthe most disciplined Gandhian project since Gandhiâ.
Though Assangeâs 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 âconveyed a messageâ to Ecuadorian authorities that Assange was using social media to support the secessionist movement and sending out messages âthat are at odds with realityâ.
âSpain 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,â the diplomat said.
âSpain 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.âWhy does Ecuador want Assange out of its London embassy? Read more
The source said Spainâs foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, had also addressed the issue when it arose in November, saying attempts had been made â to intervene, manipulate and affect what should be the natural democratic course of events in Cataloniaâ.
In December, Ecuadorâs president, LenÃn Moreno, reminded Assange that he should refrain from trying to intervene in Ecuadorian politics.
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 Clintonâs 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 GrinyÃ³ 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 âsuffered 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: âPablo 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.
âIt 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.â
A spokesperson for Ecuadorâs foreign ministry said: â[We reiterate that] Ecuador maintains excellent and fraternal relations with Spain and the vast majority of countries.â
This article was written in collaboration with Fernando Villavicencio and Cristina SolÃ³rzano from Focus EcuadorTopics
- Julian Assange
- Operation Hotel
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