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7 Apr, 2018 02:11

#ReconnectJulian: Fmr intelligence officers & whistleblowers urge Ecuador to end Assange isolation

WikiLeaks supporters are calling on Ecuador’s government to restore Julian Assange’s communication privileges, arguing that jamming his phone and internet access violates his rights, a former CIA officer and whistleblower told RT.

In late March the government of Ecuador decided to cut off Julian Assange from the outside world by blocking his phone and internet access, over the WikiLeaks editor’s tweets in support of Catalonian independence from Spain. The move sparked massive outrage from Assange supporters, who view the action as a violation of free speech. Earlier this week, a group of WikiLeaks activists delivered a letter to the Ecuadorian government, urging the country's authorities to restore Assange’s access to the outside world.

The signatories of the letter are “all intelligence professionals, diplomats, military officers, FBI agents,” John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who delivered the letter, told RT. “We understand the background to this case. We also understand how important transparency is, and freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We wanted the Ecuadorian government to know that.”

For months the Ecuadorian foreign ministry had been asking Assange to stop making statements that could affect Ecuador’s diplomatic relations with Spain. The whistleblower, who was granted Ecuadorian citizenship last year, refused and continued expressing support for Barcelona and former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, and for their independence row with Madrid.

In late March, Quito eventually took punitive measures, installing jamming devices across its embassy in London, which has been sheltering Assange since 2012. WikiLeaks advocates found Ecuador’s actions disproportionate to the ‘offense’ committed by Assange.

“Is that how you treat your own citizens and your own diplomats?” Kiriakou wondered. “Now if they had a problem with something Julian had tweeted, apparently they do have a such a problem, then they should punish him, I suppose, in a way commensurate with what it was that he did. He issued one tweet. I think this is going a bit overboard in response.”

To remedy the situation, the loyal supporters of Assange have staged internet #ReconnectJulian 'vigils' trying to muster enough support to have the whistleblower's rights restored. They have also launched an online petition, which gathered nearly 50,000 signatures, urging the Latin American government to end “Assange's isolation.”

Kiriakou, however, believes Quito had no choice and was forced to cut off Assange from the rest of the world due to a massive pressure by the United States and its allies. “It tells you really how powerful the United States is, I think, and how seriously they are taking this issue,” the former CIA officer said. “I'm sure the Ecuadorian government is under great pressure from the United States, from the United Kingdom, perhaps from Sweden, maybe even Australia.”

READ MORE: Assange works for the people – now we need to save him

“I have no doubt that the US has strongly pressured the British government to make sure that Julian is not going to be able to walk out of that embassy unfettered. And I believe that, at the same time, Julian has probably been indicted in the United States,” he added, wondering if Ecuador's financial interests might outweigh the country’s interests to protect Assange and the freedom of the press.

“I believe that if he does leave the embassy, the British authorities will grab him and extradite him to the United States.”

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