London embassy bugged: Ecuador

July 04, 2013 12:51 am | Updated June 04, 2016 12:43 pm IST - LONDON:

In more embarrassment to the British government over the growing secret surveillance row, Ecuador on Wednesday accused it of bugging its London embassy where WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange is staying — calling it “another instance of a loss of ethics at the international level in relations between governments”.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said a hidden microphone was found inside the office of the ambassador Ana Alban during a routine search recently. He was in London at the time to meet Mr. Assange and discuss his extradition case with Foreign Secretary William Hague.

“We regret to inform you that in our embassy in London we have found a hidden microphone,” Mr. Patiño was reported as telling journalists in Quito,

“I did not bring this up before because I didn’t want my visit to London to hold talks on Julian Assange to be confused with accusations over this surveillance device found in the ambassador’s office…Furthermore, we first wanted to ascertain with precision what could be the origin of this interception device in the office of our ambassador.”

Mr. Patino said he feared that the Ecuadorian government was being “infiltrated from all sides”.

“This is a testament to the loss of ethics at an international level in the relations that we have with other governments,” he said.

WikiLeaks accused western governments of “imperial arrogance”.

“Sieging/bugging of Ecuador’s London embassy and the blockading of Morales jet shows that imperial arrogance is the gift that keeps on giving,” it said in a tweet referring to reports that Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was forced to stop in Vienna and searched following speculation that U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board.

The Foreign Office declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said his government never intended to facilitate Mr. Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong. Nor was it obliged to offer him safe passage.

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