WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested ‘on behalf of the United States’

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested ‘on behalf of the United States’

by - 3 min read

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested by British police on Thursday in the Ecuadorian embassy where he’d been holed up since 2012 after the United States requested his extradition, London police say.

“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 in a statement.

They arrested Assange after being “invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.” 

London police later confirmed Assange was arrested “on behalf of the United States,” which requested Assange’s extradition, as well as for breaching British bail conditions.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said Assange’s diplomatic asylum was withdrawn for repeated violations of international conventions. Ecuador received a guarantee from Britain that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty, Moreno said.

Police said 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.”

London police later confirmed Assange was arrested ‘on behalf of the United States.’ (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Assange took refuge in the embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation. That probe was later dropped.

Assange hadn’t left the embassy since August 2012 for fear that if he steps off Ecuador’s diplomatic soil he will be arrested and extradited to the U.S. for publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

Assange’s relationship with his hosts collapsed after Ecuador accused him of leaking information about Moreno’s personal life. Moreno had previously said Assange has violated the terms of his asylum.

Snowden calls arrest a ‘dark moment’

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden called Assange’s arrest a “dark moment for press freedom” and said it contravened a call by the United Nations to allow him to walk free.

“Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom,” Snowden, who lives in Moscow under an asylum deal after he leaked classified information in 2013, wrote on Twitter.

Ecuador’s foreign minister announced that Assange’s Ecuadorian citizenship was suspended, while WikiLeaks said Ecuador had illegally terminated Assange’s political asylum in violation of international law.

Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology, said any prosecution of Assange for WikiLeaks’ publishing operations by the U.S. would be “unprecedented and unconstitutional” and that it would “open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.”

“Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public’s interest,” Wizner said in a statement.

A UN human rights expert will ask Britain to let him meet Assange to assess his claims that his privacy has been violated.

Joe Cannataci, UN special rapporteur on the right to privacy, also said in a statement he planned to ask a Spanish magistrate for access to what he called “fresh new evidence of violations of Mr. Assange’s privacy” that he may have.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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