LONDON, England – Police in London arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy on a court warrant dating back to 2012.
In a statement Thursday, 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.”
Assange hasn’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.
Ecuador’s president says his government withdrew asylum status for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange almost seven years after he sought refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in London, citing “repeated violations of international conventions and daily-life protocols.”
Lenin Moreno announced the “sovereign decision” in a statement accompanied by a video on Twitter on Thursday.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt thanked Moreno for breaking the impasse, saying on Twitter that Assange “is no hero and no-one is above the law.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says Russia wants Julian Assange’s rights to be observed following his arrest.
Shortly after Assange’s arrest in London, Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he could not comment on the overall case.
But, he said, “We of course hope that all of his rights will be observed.”
WikiLeaks has accused “powerful actors,” including the CIA, of a “sophisticated” effort to dehumanise Assange.
In a tweet, the organisation posted a photo of Assange with the words: “This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimise and imprison him. #ProtectJulian.”
The Swedish woman who alleged that she was raped by Julian Assange during a visit to Stockholm in 2010 has welcomed his arrest in London.
Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the unnamed woman, says news of Assange’s arrest came as “a shock to my client” and that it was something “we have been waiting and hoping for since 2012.”
Fritz said in a text message sent to The Associated Press that “we are going to do everything” to have the Swedish case reopened “so Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape.”
Fritz said “no rape victim should have to wait nine years to see justice be served.”
In 2017, Sweden’s top prosecutor dropped a long-running inquiry into a rape claim against Assange, saying there was no way to have Assange detained or charged within a foreseeable future because of his protected status inside the embassy.
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson says the WikiLeaks founder had been arrested on an extradition request from the United States as well as on charges of breaching his bail conditions.
In a tweet, Robinson said Assange “has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request.”
The U.S. Justice Department inadvertently revealed the existence of a sealed criminal case against Assange in a court filing last year. It’s not clear what he’s been accused of.
Former U.S. army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who leaked a trove of classified material to WikiLeaks, was jailed last month after she refused to testify before a grand jury.
In a statement Thursday, Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi said: “We are aware of the reports that Julian Assange was taken into custody by United Kingdom authorities.”
A senior member of Germany’s opposition Left party says Europe must not allow Assange to be extradited to the United States for trial.
Sevim Dagdelen said in a statement that the withdrawal of Assange’s political asylum by Ecuador and his subsequent arrest by British police was a “scandal, a violation of international law, and at the same time a severe blow to independent journalism.”
She says it is the German government’s “duty” now to prevent Britain, which earlier Thursday was granted an extension to its departure from the European Union, from extraditing Assange to the U.S., “where he faces life imprisonment or even the death penalty for exposing U.S. war crimes.”