LONDON (United Kingdom): Seven years after he took refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was today arrested.
Nearly 7yrs after entering the Ecuadorean Embassy, I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK. I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation & @metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) April 11, 2019
The moment #Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is arrested at Ecuadorian embassy in London
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) April 11, 2019
According to a short note released by London’s Metropolitan Police Service, Assange was arrested immediately after the Ecuadorian government today withdrew his political asylum.
Assange has now been taken into custody at a central London police station, from where he will be presented before Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as possible.
In the United States, Assange is facing federal charges for leaking diplomatic cables and military documents through his popular publication WikiLeaks in 2010 that embarrassed the U.S. governments across the world.
Although U.S. authorities have never officially confirmed the charges against Assange, late last year U.S. prosecutors accidentally revealed the existence of criminal charges against him in a document filed in an unrelated sex crime case.
Assange, the 47-year-old Australian hacker, founded WikiLeaks in 2006 and has since made many high-profile revelations through the platform, exposing ‘dirty’ secrets of several political parties, individuals, and government organizations across the world.
Following his arrest on Thursday, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno tweeted:
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
However, WikiLeaks said Ecuador had acted illegally in terminating Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law.”
Assange’s arrest comes a day after WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson accused the Ecuadorian government of an extensive spying operation against Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy.
Fugitive former US government contractor Edward Snowden also slammed the arrest in London of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, calling it a “dark moment for press freedom.”
Images of Ecuador’s ambassador inviting the UK’s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of–like it or not–award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom. https://t.co/ys1AIdh2FP
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 11, 2019
He also cited the United Nations to raise questions about the arrest:
Important background for journalists covering the arrest of Julian #Assange by Ecuador: the United Nations formally ruled his detention to be arbitrary, a violation of human rights. They have repeatedly issued statements calling for him to walk free–including very recently. pic.twitter.com/fr12rYdWUF
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 11, 2019
Assange was wanted by British police for failing to surrender to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in August 2012, while he was under investigation for sexual assault and rape allegations in Sweden.
Although Sweden dropped its preliminary investigation into the rape accusation against Julian Assange in 2017, Assange chose not to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy due to fears of extradition to the United States.
Assange has been forced to live in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy since June 2012, when a U.K. court ordered his extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault and rape charges filed against him.
However, his relationship with Ecuador has deteriorated in the past year. The country had cut him off the Internet since March 2018 after he breached its agreement to refrain from interfering in other states’ affairs that could affect the country’s relationship with other nations.
The circumstances even made it difficult for Assange to do his job of editor-in-chief to run WikiLeaks and forced the whistleblower organization to appoint its new editor-in-chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson.
In July last year, the Ecuadorian President also reportedly visited London to finalize a deal with UK government to withdraw Assange’s asylum protection—eventually turning him over to Britain where he is facing an arrest warrant after skipping a bail payment.