Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested by officers of the Metropolitan Police at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.
“He 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,” the Met confirmed.
The arrest was executed on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in 2012, for failing to surrender to the court. “The MPS 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,” they added.
The reason for the asylum withdrawal are many and various, he noted, but the most important are that Assange “legally challenged in three difference instances the legality of the [asylum] protocol.”
“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. The British government has confirmed it in writing, in accordance with its own rules,” he added.
WikiLeaks, expectedly, claims that Ecuador has illegally terminated Assange’s political asylum and considers this a precedent with profound implications for press freedom. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden concurs:
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
What lead to this
Assange has been at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, when he asked for asylum in order not to be extradited to Sweden, where prosecutors wanted to interrogate him as part on a sexual misconduct and rape investigation.
The investigation into the matter was dropped in 2017 because, according to Marianne Ny, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, there was no prospect of bringing Assange to Sweden “in the foreseeable future” and maintaining the European arrest warrant was “no longer proportionate.”
The warrant on the basis of which Assange was arrested today was issued by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in 2012, when Assange skipped bail instead of surrendering to the court.
Assange has always maintained that the various charges were just a pretext for him to be eventually extradited to the US, where there are allegedly sealed charges against him.
The nature of the charges are unknown, although it’s likely that they have to do with WikiLeaks’ publishing document dumps from its various intelligence agencies and the US State Department.
UPDATE (April 11, 2019, 1 p.m. PT):
The Met has confirmed that Assange has been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities after his arrival at a central London police station. This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act, the police said.
The US Department of Justice announced that Assange is charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted.
Though, according to CNN sources, the DOJ officials expect to bring additional charges him.