Ecuador spied on Assange at London embassy: report

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy London on February 5, 2016. (REUTERS File Photo)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Ecuador spied on Assange at London embassy: report

  • The spying started after Julian Assange hacked the Ecuadorean Embassy's computers.
  • It estimated the budget spent on the operation, referred to initially as “Operation Guest” and later “Operation Hotel” at $5.0 million (4.2 million euros).

LONDON: Ecuador spied on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at its London embassy where he has been living since 2012, initially to support him but things changed after he hacked the mission’s computers, the Guardian reported Wednesday.
The newspaper said Ecuador employed an international security company and undercover agents to monitor his visitors, embassy staff and even the British police at the embassy in London’s luxury Knightsbridge area.
It estimated the budget spent on the operation, referred to initially as “Operation Guest” and later “Operation Hotel” at $5.0 million (4.2 million euros).
The snooping was initially intended to protect Assange from the risk of being taken away by British police but later became a full-blown spying operation.
The operation had the support of then Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa, the paper reported, adding that it has since been wound down under the country’s new leader Lenin Moreno who took power last year.
The security team recorded Assange’s daily activities and his interactions with embassy staff and visitors, including fellow hackers, activists and lawyers.
They stayed in a rented flat near the embassy at a cost of £2,800 a month, the paper said.
The paper also cited documents showing that Assange hacked the communications system within the embassy and had his own satellite Internet access.
“By penetrating the embassy’s firewall, Assange was able to access and intercept the official and personal communications of staff,” the paper said.
WikiLeaks denied Assange had hacked the network.
Ecuador has moved to shut off Internet access for Assange in recent months by installing a jammer to prevent him from accessing email and has restricted the number of visitors he can receive.
Assange took refuge in the diplomatic mission in 2012 after a British judge ruled he should be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault there.
Assange claims the accusations were politically motivated and could lead to him being extradited to the United States to face imprisonment over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.
Sweden dropped its investigation last year, but British authorities say they still want to arrest him for breaching his bail conditions.
Ecuador in December made Assange an Ecuadoran citizen and unsuccessfully tried to register him as a diplomat with immunity as part of its efforts to have him leave the embassy without risk of being detained.


Pakistan’s top court grants bail to former PM Sharif on medical grounds

Updated 26 March 2019
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Pakistan’s top court grants bail to former PM Sharif on medical grounds

  • Nawaz Sharif is serving a seven-year sentence imposed last year for failing to disclose his source of income to acquire Al-Azizia Steel Mills

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to release former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on bail for six weeks to receive medical treatment but said he would not be allowed to leave the country.
Sharif is serving a seven-year sentence imposed last year for failing to disclose the source of income that allowed him to acquire the Al-Azizia Steel Mills in Saudi Arabia. He has appealed.
The case was heard by a three-judge panel headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.
The three-time former premier has been suffering from a heart condition and kidney problems and has been admitted to hospital. A previous bail appeal was rejected last month.
The Supreme Court removed Sharif from office in July 2017 for not disclosing part of a salary drawn from his son’s company and he was later convicted in two separate cases of failing to disclose sources of income.
In one of those cases, over the ownership of upmarket properties in London, the high court granted him bail last September, suspending a 10-year sentence until a final decision on his appeal against the conviction.
The appeal process in both cases is continuing.
Sharif has termed the charges against him politically motivated and accused the military and courts of working together to end his political career and destabilize his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.