Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested by British police in London after spending nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
London’s Metropolitan police released a statement which said officers had executed a warrant after the Ecuadorian government withdrew asylum.
“He 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,” said the statement.
“The MPS 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.”
Dramatic video of the arrest was captured by Ruptly – the video news service owned by Russia Today – showing Assange being dragged out of the embassy and into a police van this morning.
Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy while on bail in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case.
Despite the case being dropped, Assange has repeatedly claimed that if he’s removed from the embassy he’ll be sent to the United States in relation to his activities with WikiLeaks.
Almost immediately after the police announced the arrest, Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno released a video statement, which made a series of allegations against Assange’s behaviour in the embassy.
“Today, I announce that the discourteous and aggressive behaviour of Mr Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organisation, against Ecuador, have led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” Moreno said.
“Ecuador sovereignly has decided to terminate the diplomatic asylum granted to Mr Assange in 2012.”
Moreno claimed Assange had “violated the norm” of not intervening in “internal affairs of other states”.
“On the other hand, Mr Assange violated, repeatedly, clear cut provisions of the conventions on diplomatic asylum of Havana and Caracas, despite the fact that he was requested on several occasions to respect and abide by these rules,” he said. “He particularly violated the norm of not intervening in the internal affairs of other states.
“The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents. Key members of that organisation visited Mr Assange before and after such illegal acts.”
He also said Assange had installed “distortion equipment” in the embassy.
“The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange,” Moreno said. “He installed electronic and distortion equipment not allowed. He blocked the security cameras of the Ecuadorian mission in London. He has confronted and mistreated guards. He has accessed the security files of our embassy without permission.
“He claimed to be isolated and rejected the internet connection offered by the embassy, and yet he had a mobile phone with which he communicated with the outside world.”
Moreno said he has guarantees from the UK that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty.
“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.”
“The British government has confirmed it in writing, in accordance with its own rules.”
The UK home secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation & @metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law.”
In a statement, UK minister of state for Europe and the Americas Sir Alan Duncan said Assange’s arrest came after “extensive dialogue” between the UK and Ecuador.
“It is absolutely right that Assange will face justice in the proper way in the UK. It is for the courts to decide what happens next,” the statement read. “We are very grateful to the Government of Ecuador under President Moreno for the action they have taken.
“Today’s events follow extensive dialogue between our two countries. I look forward to a strong bilateral relationship between the UK and Ecuador in the years ahead.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at [email protected]
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