Julian Assange has been arrested by police in London after almost seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy. The WikiLeaks founder was dragged out of the embassy at approximately 10:35 am local time, or around 7.35pm AEDT.
Assange did not leave of his own free will and could be heard shouting “UK must resist, you can resist!” as he was physically moved out of the Ecuadorian embassy by several men. The arrest was livestreamed over YouTube on Russian news channel RT.
According to the WikiLeaks Twitter account, Assange was removed against his will. The organisation said that an unnamed Ecuadorian ambassador “invited British police into the embassy” to arrest the bearded WikiLeaks founder. As you can see from the video, British police seemed to be smirking as he was loaded into a large police vehicle.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt thanked Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in a tweet shortly after Assange was arrested.
“Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years,” Hunt tweeted. “Thank you Ecuador and President @Lenin Moreno for your cooperation with @foreignoffice to ensure Assange faces justice.”
Assange applied for asylum at the London embassy in June of 2012 over fears that he would be extradited to the United States. Assange was originally arrested in the UK because he faced charges in Sweden over sexual assault-related crimes, but those charges have since been dropped.
Assange’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, tweeted that Assange wasn’t just arrested for jumping bail on the Swedish case. She explained that he also faces extradition to the U.S., something that Assange was trying to avoid all along.
— Jen Robinson (@suigenerisjen) April 11, 2019
The UK Metropolitan Police released a statement on its website explaining that they had executed a warrant for Assange’s arrest.
Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador, Hans Crescent, SW1 on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court.
He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as is possible.
The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.
The relationship between Assange and his host country of Ecuador has been hostile over the past couple of years. Moreno even recently accused Assange of leaking his private messages and photos.
“Mr. Assange has violated the agreement we reached with him and his legal counsel too many times,” Moreno said earlier this month.
Moreno posted a video to Twitter this morning stating that while Ecuador has protected Assange’s human rights, and “provided for his everyday needs,” the country had decided to revoke his asylum claim. Moreno insisted that he had been assured that Assange would not be extradited anywhere where he would face the death penalty. The United States is considered unique in the developed world for having the death penalty, unlike the vast majority of European countries.
“In line with our strong commitment to human rights and international law, I requested Great Britain guarantee that Mr. Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty,” Moreno said in his video message.
“The British government has confirmed it in writing, in accordance with its own rules,” Moreno said.
In a sovereign decision Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols. #EcuadorSoberano pic.twitter.com/pZsDsYNI0B
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) April 11, 2019
Moreno claims in the video that Assange “installed electronic and distortion equipment” that wasn’t allowed and somehow blocked security cameras at the embassy. Those claims couldn’t be independently verified.
“He has confronted and mistreated the guards,” Moreno said during his video. “He had accessed the security files of our embassy without permission. He claimed to be isolated and rejected the internet connection offered by the embassy, and yet he had a mobile phone with which he communicated with the outside world.”
In January of 2018, President Moreno called Assange a “nuisance” and an “inherited problem,” due to the fact that it was the previous president who granted the WikiLeaks founder asylum.
“If President Moreno wants to illegally terminate a refugee publisher’s asylum to cover up an offshore corruption scandal, history will not be kind,” WikiLeaks said in a statement earlier this month to the Associated Press.
Assange had previously promised to leave the embassy of his own free will if Chelsea Manning was pardoned. Manning, who provided WikiLeaks with more than 725,000 classified U.S. government documents in 2010, was granted clemency by President Barack Obama shortly before he left office in January of 2017, but Assange insisted that it was only to make the WikiLeaks founder look like a liar. Manning currently sits in prison for her refusal to testify to a grand jury and was reportedly suffering under solitary confinement until she was later moved to the prison’s general population.
Assange’s mother took to Twitter to explain what the likely next steps for her son might be:
Journalist James Ball reports that Assange’s cat, which had become a minor media celebrity while Assange was in the embassy, was given to an animal shelter by the Ecuadorian embassy “ages ago.”
This story is developing…