Ecuador’s foreign ministry has issued a statement repudiating social media comments by Julian Assange that support the Catalonia independence movement in Spain. The ministry has repeated an earlier order to Assange that he refrain from making “statements or engaging in activities that could affect the international relations of Ecuador.”
Assange, who is holed up in London’s Ecuadorian embassy, has shared a number of videos of protests in Barcelona along with messages of support to the people of Catalonia.
Ecuador’s statement follows a protest from Spanish officials that Assange is violating the terms of his asylum. “He is spreading messages contrary to reality and promoting instability in the internal relations of Spain,” a Spanish government official said Monday
On the eve of the Catalonia independence referendum earlier this month, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said: “We have asked him in a cordial way to stop commenting on Ecuador’s policy or on other countries’ policies because his asylum status does not allow him to do so,” he said. “Currently, he is violation of that condition.”
Assange has become a vocal supporter of Catalonian secession amid furious protests and scenes of police brutality in Barcelona and beyond.
Spain has long maintained the referendum was illegal, and have clamped down on its instigators along with issuing a European arrest warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.
Diplomatic sources claimed the last time Spain contacted the Ecuadorian authorities was after a meeting between Assange and the editor Oriol Soler, who supported Puigdemont in his push for independence.
Spanish authorities also believe Assange helped keep open referendum websites the Government was closing down following the orders of the Constitutional Court. In addition to the meeting with Oriol Soler, there is the offer of 20,000 euros for whoever reveals police intervention plans for October 1, as well as their costs.
The Spanish authorities have since reportedly told Ecuadorian counterparts Assange is spreading “false messages,” adding that his statements place pressure on Madrid to explain the situation due to swaying public opinion.
The allegations come as Spain blames Russian-based groups for attempting to manipulate social media by promoting Catalonia’s independence as a way of trying to destabilize Madrid. Spain’s defense and foreign ministers said they had evidence that state and private-sector Russian groups, as well as groups in Venezuela, used Twitter, Facebook and other websites to publicize the separatist cause and swing public opinion behind Catalonia in the run-up to the controversial October 1 referendum.
The referendum has plunged Spain into its worst constitutional crisis in decades and now officials are accusing Moscow of meddling before the vote.
Spanish Defense Minister Maria Dolores de Cospedal said: “What we know today is that much of this came from Russian territory.
“These are groups that, public and private, are trying to influence the situation and create instability in Europe,” she told reporters at a meeting of European Union foreign and defense ministers in Brussels today.
In its public statement, Ecuador’s foreign ministry said that Assange would be reminded of the condition of his asylum in the London embassy. “We expect him to observe behavior that is compatible with the will of the Ecuadorian State and do not take lightly violations of this policy,” the statement said.
Sources: The Daily Mail, El Comercio