SAN FRANCISCO, April 11, (THEWILL) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he had been holed up since August 2012 and the British police have arrested him.
The arrest followed Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno’s announcement that the country has withdrawn asylum from Assange, following repeated ‘aggressive and discourteous behaviour”.
A statement by the British police said they were invited into the Ecuadorean embassy by the ambassador to effect the arrest. He had been holed up in the embassy since 2012.
“Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador,” police said.
The plan for the eviction was initially denied by authorities in Quito, Ecuador’s capital but President Lenin Moreno issued a video statement explaining why the country withdrew the asylum.
“Ecuador decided sovereignly to withdraw the diplomatic asylum to Julian Assange by repeatedly violating international conventions and protocol of coexistence”, Moreno tweeted.
Assange’s relationship with Ecuadorian officials appeared increasingly strained since the Moreno came to power in the Latin American country in 2017. His internet connection was cut off in March of last year, with officials saying the move was to stop Assange from “interfering in the affairs of other sovereign states.”
The whistleblower garnered massive international attention in 2010 when WikiLeaks released classified US military footage, entitled ‘Collateral Murder’, of a US Apache helicopter gunship opening fire on a number of people, killing 12 including two Reuters staff, and injuring two children.
The footage, as well as US war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and more than 200,000 diplomatic cables, were leaked to the site by US Army soldier Chelsea Manning. She was tried by a US tribunal and sentenced to 35 years in jail for disclosing the materials.
Manning was pardoned by President Barack Obama in 2017 after spending seven years in US custody. She is currently being held again in a US jail for refusing to testify before a secret grand jury in a case apparently related to WikiLeaks.
Assange’s seven-year stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy was motivated by his concern that he may face similarly harsh and arguably unfair prosecution by the US for his role in publishing troves of classified US documents over the years.
His legal troubles stem from an accusation by two women in Sweden, with both claiming they had a sexual encounter with Assange that was not fully consensual.
The whistleblower said the allegations were false. Nevertheless, they yielded to the Swedish authorities who sought his extradition from the UK on “suspicion of rape, three cases of sexual abuse and unlawful compulsion.”
In December 2010, he was arrested in the UK under a European Arrest Warrant and spent time in Wandsworth Prison before being released on bail and put under house arrest.