London police arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assa
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested by London police at the Ecuadoran embassy after that country dropped his diplomatic protection.
Mr. Assange has been holed up in the Ecuador embassy in London for nearly seven years after failing to show up in a British court to face a hearing on possible extradition to Sweden. He has always argued that British authorities would hand him over to officials in the United States where he feared he will be prosecuted for Wikileaks’ activity during the 2016 U.S. elections.
Ecuador withdrew his diplomatic protection this week after the country accused Mr. Assange of leaking personal information about President Lenin Moreno’s personal life.
“The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr. Assange,” Mr. Moreno said in a video statement on Thursday. The president added that Mr. Assange had installed illegal electronic and distortion equipment, blocked security cameras, mistreated guards and accessed security files. "In line with our strong commitment to human rights and international law, I requested Great Britain to guarantee that Mr Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty.”
In a statement London’s Metropolitan Police said Mr. Assange had been arrested for failing to surrender to court on charges of failing to show up in court. Mr. Assange “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,” police said in a statement. Police “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.”
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt praised Ecuador for agreeing to handover Mr. Assange.
Mr. Assange’s legal troubles in Britain began in November, 2010, when Swedish officials issued a European Arrest Warrant for him as part of an investigation into sexual-assault allegations raised by two WikiLeaks volunteers in Sweden. Mr. Assange was arrested in London and granted bail. After several hearings and appeals, a British court ordered his extradition to Sweden in 2012, but Mr. Assange failed to hand himself over and, instead, sought asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy. A British court promptly issued an arrest warrant for skipping bail.
Mr. Assange has always insisted that the Swedish case was simply a cover for him to be handed over to U.S. justice officials. He's lived in a cramped room in the embassy and, even though Ecuador granted him citizenship, he couldn’t leave the embassy without being arrested on the U.K. warrant. Swedish prosecutors dropped the sexual-assault case in 2017, saying they couldn't proceed without him being present in court, and they withdrew the European Arrest Warrant. But the British arrest warrant still stood.
Last year Mr. Assange lost a legal attempt to have the warrant withdrawn. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot dismissed his argument and ruled that there was no evidence that U.S. officials would seek Mr. Assange’s extradition. Even if they did, she added, he would be able to fight it in a British court.
- 11 Apr, 2019
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