Assange arrested after asylum revoked

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange. (AFP)

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange. (AFP)

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The 47-year-old had took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden over a sexual assault case which has since been dropped.

According to the BBC, local police said he was arrested for failing to surrender to the court.

Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno — who in a video described the Wikileaks co-founder’s behaviour as ‘discourteous and aggressive’ — said his country had withdrawn Assange’s asylum after his repeated violations of international conventions. Moreno had earlier tweeted that Ecuador was within its ‘sovereign rights’ to withdraw Assange’s asylum “for repeatedly violating international conventions and the protocol of co-habitation.”

Assange will not be extradited to a country with the death penalty, Moreno said. 

“I asked Great Britain for the guarantee that Mr Assange will not be extradited to any country in which he could suffer torture or the death penalty,” Moreno said.

“The British government has confirmed in writing” that they will meet this requirement, Moreno added.

In a tweet, Wikileaks claimed Moreno had invited British police into the building to arrest Assange, saying Ecuador had acted illegally in terminating Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law”.

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed in a tweet, that “Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK.

“I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation & metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law.”

Russia on Thursday slammed Assange’s detention as a move against democratic freedoms. “The hand of ‘democracy’ is strangling freedom,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook. According to an AFP report, former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa labelled Moreno a ‘traitor’ following the arrest. Correa — who was instrumental in granting Assange asylum — called the reversal of policy as “a crime.”

“Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget,” tweeted Belgium-based Correa.

Former US government contractor Edward Snowden said Assange’s arrest was a “dark moment for press freedom.”

“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,” the whistle-blower said on Twitter.

“Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.”

The lawyer of the Swedish woman who accused Assange of rape in 2010 said she and her client would ask Swedish prosecutors to reopen the investigation which was dropped in 2017. Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer, told AFP: “We will do everything we can to get the prosecutors to reopen the Swedish investigation so that Assange can be extradited to Sweden and be prosecuted for rape. As long as the statute of limitations has not expired my client has hope for restitution.”

Watch Assange being escorted from the embassy by security personnel. 

This a developing story and will be updated as more details emerge.

Kiri Rupiah

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