WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested at Ecuadorian embassy
Almost seven years of refuge came to an end after his diplomatic immunity was withdrawn.
Julian Assange has been forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London almost seven years after he sought refuge there to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex assault charges.
Scotland Yard arrested the WikiLeaks founder after the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum, blaming his “repeated violations” of “international conventions and daily-life protocols”.
Assange was seen shouting and gesticulating as he was carried out in handcuffs by seven men and put into a waiting Metropolitan Police Service van shortly after 10am on Thursday.
He was held on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 29, 2012 when he failed to surrender to the court.
Scotland Yard said: “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 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.”
Ecuador’s 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.”
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
UK government ministers welcomed the move with both Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeting that “no-one is above the law”.
Mr Hunt said: “Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years.
“Thank you Ecuador and President Lenin Moreno for your cooperation with the Foreign Office to ensure Assange faces justice.”
But WikiLeaks said Ecuador had acted illegally in terminating Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law”.
URGENT: Ecuador has illigally terminated Assange political asylum in violation of international law. He was arrested by the British police inside the Ecuadorian embassy minutes ago.https://t.co/6Ukjh2rMKD— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 11, 2019
His arrest comes a day after Wikileaks accused the Ecuadorean Government of an “extensive spying operation” against Assange.
WikiLeaks, a whistle-blowing website, claimed meetings with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy over the past year were secretly filmed.
Supporters of Assange also reported increased police activity at the embassy in recent days.
Two armed officers went into the building on Saturday and people taking part in a vigil said teams of plain clothes officers were outside the embassy throughout
A number of surveillance cameras were also positioned opposite the embassy.
Australian Assange came to prominence after WikiLeaks began releasing hundreds of thousands classified US diplomatic cables.
But in 2010 an arrest warrant was issued for him for two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation – after he visited Sweden for a speaking trip.
Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years. Thank you Ecuador and President @Lenin Moreno for your cooperation with @foreignoffice to ensure Assange faces justice— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) April 11, 2019
Assange launched a legal battle against extradition to Sweden from the UK but when that failed he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London, requesting political asylum.
He refused to leave the embassy, claiming he would be extradited to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he did so.
The Ecuadorian government at the time was sympathetic to his cause but a regime change in 2017 heralded a less supportive approach.