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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested

Arrest came after Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum status for ‘repeated violations’


British police have arrested Julian Assange after Ecuador withdrew his asylum status. The arrest was made at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has been claiming asylum since 2012. Assange was carried out of the embassy by authorities, and taken into custody at a central London police station. Assange could be heard pleading that “the UK must resist... this attempt by the Trump administration.” He will now be presented at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Assange’s future in the embassy was called into question last year after the president of Ecuador said he would “eventually” have to leave the property and revealed that he was in discussions with British authorities to end his asylum. Assange was also given a new set of house rules back in October, including orders to look after his cat and avoid political interference using the embassy’s Wi-Fi. These rules followed Assange appointing Kristinn Hrafnsson to replace him as the WikiLeaks editor, following his prior lack of internet access.

The WikiLeaks founder was first granted asylum in 2012 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault. Since then, he has been accused of aiding Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election by publishing over 19,000 emails stolen from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Last year 12 Russia intelligence officers were charged over the crime, one of whom was in contact with the WikiLeaks founder.

Last November it emerged that Assange is being charged over the publication of classified documents by the US Justice Department after an apparent copy-and-paste error was made in an unrelated court filing.

In a video posted to Twitter, the president of Ecuador Lenín Moreno said that while the country respects the right of asylum, “the discourteous and aggressive behavior of Mr. Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organization, against Ecuador, and especially, the transgression of international treaties” mean that “the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.”

In particular, Moreno calls out Assange’s intervention “in the internal affairs of other states.” In January 2019 WikiLeaks released a collection of confidential Vatican documents, and Moreno says Assange’s activity around this time suggests he is still involved in WikiLeaks.

Along with this alleged interference in the affairs of other states, Moreno also says Assange blocked security cameras, has mistreated guards, and even accessed the security files of the embassy without permission. Moreno said the British government has confirmed in writing that Assange will not be extradited to a country that uses torture or the death penalty.

~ Agencies

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