Thursday, 11 April 2019 20:13

Assange arrested after Ecuador withdraws asylum Featured

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WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been arrested by the British police after Ecuador withdrew his asylum on Thursday.

Assange has spent almost seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after taking refuge there in June 2012.

Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno was quoted as saying that Quito had withdrawn Assange's asylum after he repeatedly violated international conventions. But WikiLeaks tweeted that Ecuador had acted illegally in ending Assange's asylum "in violation of international law".

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a tweet that he could confirm that Assange was now in custody and "rightly facing justice in the UK".

The London Metropolitan police said in a statement that the Ecuador Government had withdrawn asylum for Assange, and that its officers had been invited into the embassy by the ambassador.

"Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service at the Embassy of Ecuador, Hans Crescent, SW1 on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29 June 2012, for failing to surrender to the court," the statement said.

"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.

"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."

British Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan said in a statement: "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.

"We are very grateful to the government of Ecuador under President [Lenin] 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."

Assange skipped bail when he entered the embassy in 2012, but his fear has not been that he would be arrested by the London police.

Rather, he has maintained that he fears extradition to the US where indications are that an indictment has been readied to put him behind bars.

In November 2018, it emerged that the US may have already filed charges against Assange. This came to light after portions of a complaint against him were apparently cut and pasted into a complaint against an unrelated individual, Seitu Sulayman Kokayi.

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson had told a media conference in London that Ecuador was spying on him and his meetings with lawyers and a doctor had been secretly filmed by the Ecuadorian authorities.

Hrafnsson said photos, documents and audio recordings about Assange's activities in the embassy had been sent to WikiLeaks by "Spanish individuals". 

The Assange saga began when he visited Sweden in August 2010 to attend a conference to give a talk. During that visit, he had sex with two women and they later filed rape and molestation complaints against him later, claims that he denied.

He was questioned by Swedish authorities and cleared, but did not leave the country at the time.

Interpol issued a Red Notice for his arrest on 20 November 2010. On 27 November, Assange surrendered to authorities in the UK and appeared before a Westminster judge. He was granted bail in December after his backers provided £240,000 in cash and sureties.

A legal back-and-forth eventuated and went on until June 2012, when Swedish prosecutors sought his extradition.

Assange's lawyers, among them the world-renowned Australian Geoffrey Robertson, replied that if he agreed to the extradition request, then he could be flown to the US from there.

On 19 June 2012, he jumped bail and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, seeking asylum in the South American country. British police surrounded the building and blocked any chance of his leaving.

Ecuador granted him asylum in August 2012. He has had to stay inside the four walls of the embassy since then. He was granted Ecuadorian citizenship by a former president of the country, Rafael Correa.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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