WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was on Thursday taken into custody in Central London by the British Police, news agency Reuters reported. Assange was arrested from the Ecuador Embassy in London after the South American country withdrew the asylum granted to him.
“He (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,” a statement issued by the Metropolitan Police said, adding that Assange had been arrested on a warrant issued by the same court on June 29 2012, for “failing to surrender to the court.”
“The MPS (Met Police Service) had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum,” the statement said.
Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation. That probe was later dropped, but Assange fears he could be extradited to face charges in the US, where prosecutors are investigating mass disclosures of classified information through WikiLeaks.
The Wikileaks founder’s relationship with his hosts collapsed after Ecuador accused him of leaking information about President Lenin Moreno’s personal life. Moreno had previously said Assange has violated the terms of his asylum.
Reacting on Assange’s arrest, the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said that he had asked Britain to guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty.
Ecuador decidió soberanamente retirar el asilo diplomático a Julian Assange por violar reiteradamente convenciones internacionales y protocolo de convivencia. #EcuadorSoberano pic.twitter.com/V02pvvtPY0
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) April 11, 2019
“In line with our strong commitment to human rights and international law, I requested Great Britain to guarantee that Mr Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty,” Moreno said in a video posted on Twitter.
Hope Assange rights will not be violated: Russia
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, answering a question about the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London, said Moscow hopes that his rights will not be violated, news agency Reuters reported.
Dark moment for press freedom- Edward Snowden
“Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom,” US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted.
Images of Ecuador’s ambassador inviting the UK’s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of–like it or not–award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom. https://t.co/ys1AIdh2FP
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) April 11, 2019
“The United Nations formally ruled his detention to be arbitrary, a violation of human rights. They have repeatedly issued statements calling for him to walk free–including very recently,” he said in another tweet.
US seeks extradition
Requesting the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the US justice department said that he would face five years in jail if convicted. The indictment against Assange alleged that he was involved in a computer hacking conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence analyst, to crack a defence department password.
Britain Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesperson said that the UK government did not lobby Ecuadorean government to revoke Assange’s asylum. “There has been extensive dialogue with the Ecuadorian government from the onset. The decision to revoke asylum was one for them entirely,” May’s spokeswoman was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Assange hearing in UK court
A British court found Julian Assange guilty of breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and during the hearing, the judge said assertion that he had not had a fair hearing earlier was “laughable”. The next hearing has been scheduled for May 2 via video link and said that he has to be produced again on the extradition matter on June 12, which is also the deadline for the United States to produce its case.
Assange’ lawyer in Quito claimed that his life will be in danger if he were extradited to the US.
Meanwhile, Ecuador President Lenin Moreno withdrew Assange’ Ecuadoran citizenship which was granted to him, confirmed Foreign minister Jose Valencia.
(Inputs from Reuters, )
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