Arrested WikiLeaks founder faces extradition to US

WikLeaks co-founder Julian Assange was arrested on Thursday at the Ecuadorian embassy in London based on an extradition request on behalf of the US and for skipping bail in the UK, police said.

Later in the day, a judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court found Assange guilty of failing to surrender before the authorities over a 2010 warrant linked to rape and molestation cases in Sweden, British media said.

Assange pleaded not guilty to skipping bail.

The arrest comes a day after Wikileaks alleged a massive spying operation against its founder.

Wikileaks on Thursday refuted some reports saying Assange was arrested outside the embassy building.

It said the Ecuadoran ambassador invited British police into the embassy where Assange was arrested. Scotland Yard confirmed this.

Video footage by a news agency shows Assange being carried by police from the embassy into their van.

For seven years, Assange had refused to leave the embassy as he feared extradition to the US where he faces charges for publishing hacked government files linked to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If found guilty of conspiracy charges to commit computer crimes, Assange may face a five-year jail term in the US.

Responding to the arrest, WikiLeaks accused Ecuador of breaching international law by withdrawing his asylum.

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Britain of strangling freedom by arresting Assange.

US whistle-blower Edward Snowden said the arrest of the award-winning journalist marks a dark moment for press freedom.

Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, who granted Assange asylum in 2012, described his successor Lenin Moren as a traitor who committed a crime by terminating the journalist’s political asylum.

Case against him

In August 2010, the Swedish prosecutor’s office had issued an arrest warrant for Assange over separate cases of rape and molestation. Assange denied any wrongdoing.

In December the same year, Assange was arrested in London and later granted bail.

In May 2012, the Metropolitan Police issued an extradition warrant for Assange.

A month later, he took refuge in Ecuadorean embassy in London. Three years later, Ecuador granted him asylum.

In May 2017, Swedish investigations dropped cases against him.

Months after the UK and Ecuador held talks on Assange early last year, the embassy told him to follow a set of rules while living under its roof. He protested and a dispute ensued between them.

Embassy officials accused him of blocking security cameras, accessing security files and confronting guards.

In a development which will upset Assange, the Swedish woman who had accused him of rape requested the authorities on Thursday to reopen the case.