WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested on Thursday by British police and dragged out of the Ecuadorean embassy, where he had sought refuge for nearly seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault investigation.
Born in Queensland in Australia, the 47-year-old computer programmer made headlines globally in the year 2010, when WikiLeaks published confidential material about American military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of several months.
The leaks eventually turned into a major embarrassment for the Obama administration resulting in the launch of a criminal investigation again Assange.
In November 2010, an arrest warrant was issued for Assange by a Swedish prosecutor over sexual assault allegations involving two Swedish women. Assange denied the claims but surrendered to the UK police on December 7. He was later released on bail within 10 days.
Following his bail, a British judge ruled that Assange can be extradited to Sweden. Fearing Sweden will hand him over to US authorities who could prosecute him for publishing the documents, Assange took refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London where he was later granted political asylum.
Assange again became a point of conversation during the US Presidential election of 2016, when WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of hacked emails from inside Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. As a result, the WikiLeaks founder turned into a reviled figure among Clinton’s supporters and a hero for Donald Trump’s.
Often seen as a hero who challenges censorship and advocates transparency by his supporters, Assange is also seen as a threat by others who claim he risked security by revealing secret documents.