On Thursday WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British police only moments after Ecuador announced it withdrew his asylum for allegedly “repeatedly violating international conventions and protocol.”
Assange had been at the embassy since 2012 when British courts ordered him to be extradited to Sweden to face questioning in a sexual assault case.
Since then that matter has been dropped, but Wikileaks is still facing a federal grand jury investigation over its publication of American diplomatic and military secrets during the Iraq War.
Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said his decision to withdraw Assange’s asylum was a “sovereign decision” because of his alleged repeated violations.
“Today I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially the transgression of international treaties, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” Moreno said in a video statement posted on Twitter.
Video of Julian Assange’s arrest showed him with a full white beard as he was being dragged from the embassy.
Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told Teleamazonas this week that living in the embassy indefinitely is bad for Mr. Assange’s “state of mind, his health,” but that Julian has a right to a fair trial and right to a defense.
London’s Metropolitan Police vowed earlier this month to arrest the Australian if he were ever freed. 47-year-old Assange has lived in the embassy for more over six years and faces possible extradition to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.
The Home Office said the US request for Assange’s extradition is for an alleged “computer-related offence”.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Julian Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America.
“He is accused in the United States of America computer-related offences.”
Assange’s attorney said in a tweet that Julian was arrested on an extradition request from the U.S. as well as on charges of breaching his bail conditions.
Assange “has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request,” Robinson tweeted.
The U.S. Justice Department revealed the existence of a sealed criminal case against Assange in a court filing last year. It wasn’t clear what he was accused of.
“We are aware of the reports that Julian Assange was taken into custody by United Kingdom authorities,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said.
WikiLeaks said in a tweet Ecuador “illegally” terminated Julian Assange’s political asylum and the country violated international law.
“This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him,” WikiLeaks wrote.
Snowden who infamously leaked highly classified NSA information tweeted Assange’s arrest would “going to end up in the history books.
The president of Ecuador, Lenín Moreno, said he secured guarantees from the UK that Julian Assange would not face the death penalty or torture.
Justifying the move handing him over to the British police, 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.”
Rafael Correa, who was Ecuadorian president when Assange was granted asylum, accused his successor of treachery.
Sweden’s chief prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, issued a statement saying: “This is news to us too, so we have not been able to take a position on the information that is now available. We also do not know why he is under arrest. We are following the developments.”
The problem is that Ecuadorians breached their own sovereignty by inviting British police into their embassy. It was symbolic of the way the Ecuadorian government had treated journalists in their own country, where president Lenin Moreno had shut down opposing newspapers and betrayed an incipient socialist revolution.
Assange is due to appear at Westminster magistrates court later on Thursday.
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