The long-running legal drama surrounding the Wikileaker co-founder Julian Assange has taken a dramatic twist after a seven year stalemate.
Ever since June 2012 Assange had remained holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge, central London, after he fled there after losing his final plea to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he had faced allegations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010.
But now it has been confirmed that seven years later, Assange has been arrested, after British police entered the Ecuadorian Embassy and dragged him out.
“Nearly 7yrs after entering the Ecuadorean Embassy, I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK,” tweeted Home Secretary Sajid Javid. “I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation & @metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law.”
And the news was also confirmed by the Met police.
“Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador, Hans Crescent, SW1 on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court,” it said.
The police said that 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.”
But before that could happen, Assange was “further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities, at 10:53hrs after his arrival at a central London police station,” said the Met Police. “This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act. He will appear in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court as soon as possible.”
The news of the US extradition confirms Assange’s worst fears. He had always known he faced the British lesser charge of skipping bail in 2012.
But he took refuge in the embassy after he claimed the sex he had with the Swedish women was consensual and that the accusations against him were politically motivated.
Assange always felt the charges were a ruse and that he would then be sent to the US and put on trial for releasing secret American documents.
It is worth remembering that in August 2015, the assault claims against Assange were dropped by the Swedish prosecutor.
But why does the United States want to collar Julian Assange so badly?
Well Julian Assange was the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, the website which gained notoriety in 2012 when it published US military and diplomatic documents which were leaked by intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning).
The UK in the meantime was caught in the middle of a worldwide legal battle, as it had a legal obligation to extradite Assange, but couldn’t enter the embassy of a foreign nation.
But the arrest of Assange was made possible after it seems that the Ecuadorian government lost patience with his behaviour.
Scotland Yard has said it was invited into the embassy by the Ecuadorian ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of Assange’s asylum.
Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno has reportedly said it had withdrawn Assange’s asylum after his repeated violations of international conventions. The Ecuadorean president said the country had “reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange” after he intervened in the internal affairs of other states.
“The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents,” President Moreno was quoted by the BBC as saying. “This and other publications have confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states.”
Assange has his supporters, and even an “expert panel” from the United Nations in 2016 concluded that he had been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom, and that he should receive compensation for his detention.
The case against him continues.
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