Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested by Met Police after the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum and could now face extradition to the United States.
Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years, having sought asylum while on police bail in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual offences charges.
He had always denied the charges, which have since been dropped, but feared ultimate extradition to the US for publishing top-secret files exposing US military operations and foreign policy failings in Iraq.
Lately tensions have been rising between Assange and the embassy, which he claimed shut off his access to the internet, forcing him to step down as Wikileaks editor in September last year.
At a press conference yesterday his replacement, Kristinn Hrafnsson, accused Ecuador of carrying out an “extensive spying operation” against Assange from within the embassy.
The Ecuadorian Ambassador invited police officers inside the embassy to execute a warrant for Assange over failing to surrender to the court, according to a Met statement issued today.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said on Twitter: “In a sovereign decision Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.”
Assange, who is originally from Australia, will remain in police custody before appearing before Westminster Magistrates’ Court “as soon as possible,” the Met has said.
Police have since added that he has been further arrested “on behalf of the United States authorities” under an extradition warrant.
Footage of Assange’s arrest at the embassy, which is based in Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, was captured by RT-owned video news agency Ruptly and published online. It appears national media had left the scene.
The clip shows him sporting a white beard and being escorted by five men to a waiting police van. He can be heard shouting “the UK must resist” and what sounds like “the UK has no sovereignty”.
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) April 11, 2019
In a statement on Twitter, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Nearly seven years 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 and Met Police for its professionalism. No one is above the law.”
Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry said it has received guarantees from Britain “that there are no risks for the life and integrity of Mr Assange”.
It added: “Great Britain has offered guarantees, at the request of Ecuador, that if an extradition request were submitted, it would not be delivered to a country where it could be imposed and executed the death penalty or be subject to torture or ill-treatment.”
Ecuador also blamed Assange’s “repeated violation” of norms set out under conventions on diplomatic asylum.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years.”
Wikileaks has claimed Ecuador “illegally terminated” Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law”.
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