This morning marked the end of a seven-year standoff as embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was pulled from London’s Ecuadorian embassy and taken into custody by UK authorities. London police were “invited into the embassy by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorean government’s withdrawal of asylum” just days after WikiLeaks tweeted that Assange was facing expulsion from the embassy that had sheltered him since 2012. A disheveled, bearded Assange was restrained by authorities, shouting, “This is unlawful. I am not leaving.”
Assange was taken to a central London police station. A few hours later, he appeared before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court and was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court. Assange will be sentenced at a later date, and is facing up to one year in prison. Yet, he seemed to be in good spirits, waving to onlookers and offering them a thumbs up.
Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson made a defiant statement outside the courthouse, promising to fight attempts to extradite Assange to the United States. Robinson confirmed that she had visited her client in jail, and that Assange had asked her to express gratitude and a simple message to his supporters: “I told you so.”
Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno took to Twitter to explain his decision to rescind Assange’s asylum, stating that “Ecuador is a generous country,” but that maintaining asylum for Assange had become “unsustainable” due to Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive behavior,” among other reasons.
In a sovereign decision Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols. #EcuadorSoberano pic.twitter.com/pZsDsYNI0B
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) April 11, 2019
Moreno reportedly believes that WikiLeaks is responsible for recent leaks of his private photographs on social media. Ecuadorian officials have also accused WikiLeaks of publicizing the INA Papers, documents that led to an embarrassing scandal linking Moreno to corruption and money laundering through offshore Panamanian shell companies.
The greatest threat to Assange is the looming prospect of extradition to the United States, where the Trump Adminstration hopes to pursue conspiracy charges carrying a maximum of five years in federal prison. U.S. authorities allege that Assange conspired with former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack a secure Department of Defense network. Assange is accused of helping Manning to crack a security password in order to access classified documents, a move that has been described as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.” Manning has already served seven years in prison for charges related to this incident.
When asked about Assange’s arrest and pending charges, President Trump, who showered WikiLeaks with praise on numerous occasions during his 2016 presidential campaign, simply replied, “It’s not my thing.”