Exclusive: 'Incredible strain' in relations between Ecuador and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over his involvement in Edward Snowden NSA whistleblower affair

WikiLeaks founder has been at nation's London embassy after claiming asylum more than a year ago

Relations between the Ecuadorean government and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are becoming “incredibly strained” over the latter’s involvement in the Edward Snowden affair, The Independent has learned.

If unresolved, the tensions - which were confirmed by a Quito source on Monday - could bring into question Mr Assange’s own position within the Andean nation’s London embassy. He claimed asylum there more than a year ago in order to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa was furious with his own diplomat Fidel Narvaez, who – in conjunction with Mr Assange – organised the handing of a safe passage letter to Mr Snowden. He called the move, which was apparently made without consulting the central government, a “serious error”, for which the consul was likely to be punished. And WikiLeaks’ involvement in the debacle also angered Quito.

A WikiLeaks volunteer was reportedly accompanying Mr Snowden, who is believed to still be in the transit area of a Russian airport. And the group posted a message online last month, which read: “WikiLeaks has assisted Mr. Snowden’s political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers ans safe exit from Hong Kong.” [Sic]

Following his flight from Hong Kong, Mr Snowden’s eventual destination in the bid to escape the US authorities following his leaking of huge amounts of sensitive data was believed to be Ecuador. There was thought to be initial enthusiasm in Quito, apparently confirmed by the presence of a government official at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and the letter handed to the NSA leaker.

But Mr Snowden’s position was thrown into confusion when President Correa revoked the temporary travel document and said that Mr Snowden’s fate was in the hands of Russia.

“He doesn't have a passport. I don't know the Russian laws, I don't know if he can leave the airport, but I understand that he can't. At this moment he's under the care of the Russian authorities. If he arrives at an Ecuadorean Embassy we'll analyse his request for asylum,” Mr Correa told the Associated Press.

Leaked correspondence previously hinted at the private concerns of one member of the Ecuadorean government, who wrote to a colleague: “I suggest talking to Assange to better control the communications. From outside, [Assange] appears to be running the show.”

In response, Mr Assange apologised, telling Ecuador’s Foreign Minister he was sorry “if we have unwittingly [caused] Ecuador discomfort in the Snowden matter”. In a note to Ricardo Patiño, he added: “There is a fog of war due to the rapid nature of events. If similar events arise you can be assured that they do not originate in any lack of respect or concern for Ecuador or its government.”

But the renewed murmurs of discontent from Quito indicate that its government is not entirely placated and that Mr Assange remains at risk of incurring its wrath.

Mr Assange has sought to frame the issue as one centring on the release of further documents. At the weekend, he called Mr Snowden a “hero” and warned that “there is no stopping the publishing process at this stage”. Mr Snowden has asked for asylum in Ecuador and is awaiting a definitive response.

Mr Assange told ABC News programme ‘This Week’ that the situation remains “very sensitive”. He added: “It’s a matter of international diplomatic negotiations, so there’s little that I can productively say about what is happening directly.” He did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

Reports also suggested that Mr Snowden is trying not to put all of his eggs in Ecuador’s basket and has applied for asylum in 15 countries in total.

The LA Times reported that an anonymous Russian official said: “It was a desperate measure on [Mr Snowden’s] part after Ecuador disavowed his political protection credentials. In the document, Snowden reiterated once again that he is not a traitor and explained his actions only by a desire to open the world’s eyes on the flagrant violations by U.S. special services not only of American citizens but also citizens of European Union including their NATO allies.”

However, the countries to which he reportedly applied were not revealed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence