Julian Assange Arrested In London Following Ecuador’s Withdrawal of Asylum
Julian Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The Metropolitan Police arrests Assange for “failing to surrender to the court” over a warrant issued in 2012. He is found guilty and faces up to 12 months in prison, as well as extradition over US charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
Julian Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over an assault case that has since been dropped.
At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on April 11, he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.
Julian Assange now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.
The UK will decide whether to extradite him, in response to allegations by the DoJ that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases.
Julian Assange, 47, faces up to five years in US prison if convicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.
His lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.
Jennifer Robinson said she had visited Julian Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”
Julian Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.
After his arrest, the Australian national was initially taken to a central London police station before appearing in court.
Dressed in a black suit and black polo shirt, Julian Assange waved to the public gallery and gave a thumbs up. He pleaded not guilty to the 2012 charge of failing to surrender to the court.
Finding him guilty of that charge, District Judge Michael Snow said Julian Assange’s behavior was “the behavior of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”.
He sent Julian Assange to Southwark Crown Court for sentencing, where he faces up to 12 months in prison.
The court also heard that during Assange’s arrest at the embassy he had to be restrained and shouted: “This is unlawful, I am not leaving.”
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Julian Assange set up WikiLeaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.
WikiLeaks hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.
Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website.
She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.
Chelsea Manning was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.
She was recently jailed for refusing to testify before an investigation into WikiLeaks’ role in revealing the secret files.
The indictment against Julian Assange, issued last year in the state of Virginia, alleges that he conspired in 2010 with Manning to access classified information on Department of Defense computers. He faces up to five years in jail.
Chelsea Manning downloaded four databases from US departments and agencies between January and May 2010, the indictment says. This information, much of which was classified, was provided to WikiLeaks.
The DoJ described it as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”.
Cracking a password stored on the computers, the indictment alleges, would have allowed Manning to log on to them in such a way as to make it harder for investigators to determine the source of the disclosures. It is unclear whether the password was actually broken.
Julian Assange had been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation.
The investigation into the alleged rape, which he denied, was later dropped because he had evaded the arrest warrant. The Swedish Prosecution Authority has said it is now considering whether to resume the inquiry before the statute of limitations runs out in August 2020.
Scotland Yard said it was invited into the embassy on April 11 by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.
Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno said his country had “reached its limit on the behavior of Mr. Assange”.
The president said: “The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents.
“This and other publications have confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr. Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states.”
Lenin Moreno’s accusations against Julian Assange also included blocking security cameras at the embassy, accessing security files and confronting guards.