WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrested at Ecuadorian Embassy in London, ‘on behalf of’ US

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested on a 7-year-old warrant early Thursday at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, and is currently being held in a police station.

Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) 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 Metropolitan Police said in a statement. “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.”

Assange has also “been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities” after he arrived at the police station in central London, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Carlos Poveda, Assange’s lawyer in Ecuador, confirmed to ABC News that Assange had also been arrested on a U.S. extradition request. He also claimed the arrest contravened international conventions on human rights.

WikiLeaks claimed the U.S. extradition request concerned Assange’s “conspiracy with Chelsea Manning” for publishing material related to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the organization wrote on Twitter.

Assange, an Australian native, founded the website WikiLeaks in 2006 and drew attention over the next decade for releasing sensitive, and often classified, information.

The Metropolitan Police had a warrant on for Assange’s arrest on behalf of Westminster Magistrates’ Court, they added, and were invited into the Ecuadorian Embassy by Ambassador Carlos Abad Ortiz after the Ecuadorian government withdrew the WikiLeaks founder’s asylum status.

 FILE - In this Friday May 19, 2017 file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London. A senior Ecuadorian official said no decision has been made to expel Julian Assange from the country's London embassy despite tweets from Wikileaks that sources had told it he could be kicked out within
(The Associated Press)  FILE – In this Friday May 19, 2017 file photo, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures as he speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London. A senior Ecuadorian official said no decision has been made to expel Julian Assange from the country’s London embassy despite tweets from Wikileaks that sources had told it he could be kicked out within “hours to days.” A small group of protesters and supporters gathered Thursday April 4, 2019 outside the embassy in London where Assange has resided for 12 years. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)…

The warrant for “failure to appear” in court with regards to a now-closed rape inquiry in Sweden has been active for the past seven years. Carlos Poveda, Assange’s lawyer in Ecuador, told ABC News that Assange had also been arrested on a US extradition request. The arrest contravened international conventions on human rights, he added.

Police had been unable to arrest him while he held the status of asylum seeker in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, He had been confined there since 2012.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S. attorney, described the news as “bitterly disappointing.”

“First and foremost, we hope that the U.K. will now give Mr. Assange access to proper health care, which he has been denied for seven years,” he said in a statement seen by ABC News. “Once his health care needs have been addressed, the U.K. courts will need to resolve what appears to be an unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information.”

Sir Alan Duncan, the British government’s Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, said in a statement that it was “absolutely right that Assange will face justice.”

“It is for the courts to decide what happens next,” he said. “We are very grateful to the Government of Ecuador under President Moreno for the action they have taken.

“Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law,” the U.K.’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter. “He has hidden from the truth for years. Thank you Ecuador and President @Lenin Moreno for your cooperation with @foreignoffice to ensure Assange faces justice.”

The arrest came as the Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno announced on Thursday that Assange’s diplomatic asylum and immunity had been withdrawn for “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocol.”

“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,” Moreno added. “The British government has confirmed it in writing, in accordance with its own rules.”

Speculation that Assange was going to be arrested has circulated for months, after a host of new restrictions were placed on his access to the internet in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, as reported by ABC in October 2018.

Assange became a famous whistleblower when WikiLeaks began publishing some of the world’s most-closely guarded official secrets leaked to them more than a decade ago, but he became embroiled in a global political scandal as Mueller’s investigators probed whether WikiLeaks had any role in collaborating with Russian military intelligence to disseminate hacked emails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign shortly before the election.

In a federal grand jury indictment of three Russian companies and a dozen Russian individuals that the special counsel secured in Julywhich refers to WikiLeaks as “Organization-1,” the organization is accused of communicating with Russian intelligence officers posing as hacker persona “Guccifer 2.0” about a politically-timed publication of hacked emails from the Democratic Party.

 Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, May 19, 2017.
(Frank Augstein/AP, FILE)  Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, May 19, 2017.

Assange has denied receiving hacked emails from a foreign state, but his animosity toward former Secretary of State Clinton, whom he once publicly called a “sadistic sociopath,” is well known. Before he was elected president, Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks five times on the campaign trail for publishing the stolen emails.

Assange’s eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy comes on the heels of Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s recent assessment that Britain has provided sufficient guarantees for Assange to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, which has been housing Assange since 2012.

During a radio interview in December, Moreno stated that the Ecuadorian government has received written assurances from the U.K. government that Assange would not be extradited to face the death penalty abroad.

In March, the Ecuadorian Embassy cut off Assange’s communications after he tweeted about Britain’s accusation that Russia was behind the Salisbury nerve agent attack against a Russian ex-spy. The embassy restored his access in October under the condition that Assange refrain from engaging in “any activities that could be considered as political or interfering with other nations’ affairs.”

The new protocols highlighted what an increasingly unwelcome guest Assange had become. His legal team had said Moreno wanted political cover for eventually stripping Assange, whom Moreno called a “hacker,” of his Ecuadorian citizenship and asylum. His lawyers predicted that if he were to be expelled from the embassy, he would face immediate arrest by British police and that such an arrest could pave the way for his potential extradition to the United States.

In November, newly discovered court documents filed by federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of Virginia revealed that Assange appears to have “been charged” with a federal crime.

 Placards on a crowd barriers outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Friday, April 5, 2019, where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up since 2012. A senior Ecuadorian official said no decision has been made to expel Julian Assange from the country's London embassy despite tweets from Wikileaks that sources had told it he could be kicked out within
(The Associated Press)  Placards on a crowd barriers outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Friday, April 5, 2019, where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up since 2012. A senior Ecuadorian official said no decision has been made to expel Julian Assange from the country’s London embassy despite tweets from Wikileaks that sources had told it he could be kicked out within “hours to days” on Friday. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)…

The revelation of the mystery case was accidentally included in documents filed in an unrelated sex crimes case when the government filed a motion to seal a criminal complaint in August. ABC News sources said a prosecutor erred by using a document related to Assange still under seal as a template for the case in Virginia which had nothing to do with the WikiLeaks founder.

Assange is not the defendant in the Virginia case, but while arguing for the specific details of the ongoing case to remain sealed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen Dwyer apparently failed to delete all references to Assange in the document about the unrelated case and made mention of ” the fact that Assange has been charged.”

At the time of the prosecutors’ error in mid-November, it was not immediately clear what Assange had been charged with, but the U.S. government has been investigating WikiLeaks for publishing military secrets and sensitive diplomatic cables since 2010.

In response to the revelation, Assange’s lawyer in Washington, Barry Pollack, released a statement to ABC News on Nov. 15.

“It is inexplicable that the government would file in a public document a claim that Mr. Assange has been charged when no notice has been given to Mr. Assange,” Pollack said. “The government should not be bringing criminal charges against someone for publishing truthful information.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone, who was indicted by the special counsel, has come up as a possible link between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign.

Nearly a dozen individuals close to Stone, including former InfoWars editor Jerome Corsi, were brought in for interviews with the Mueller team and have appeared before a federal grand jury. The witnesses have told ABC News that they were asked about Stone’s dealings during the 2016 election and what, if any, contact he may have had with Assange. Stone has told ABC News multiple times that he had never met or spoken with Assange.

 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London on May 19, 2017.
(AFP/Getty Images, FILE)  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London on May 19, 2017.

An email correspondence between Stone and Corsi, obtained exclusively by ABC News, suggested that Stone sought to connect with Assange using Corsi and London-based conservative author Ted Malloch. The email was sent on July 31, 2016, just nine days after WikiLeaks released the first batch of stolen Democratic Party documents.

Stone told ABC News that the message “proves I had no advance knowledge of contents of WikiLeaks’ DNC material, and like every politico and journalist in America, I wanted to know what the content matter was.”

Another email obtained and published by The New York Times suggested that Stone presented himself as someone who had knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plan to release more leaked material to Steve Bannon, who was then a central figure of the Trump campaign.

Assange’s lawyer in London, Jennifer Robinson, has told ABC News repeatedly since late summer that there was “no connection between Stone and WikiLeaks.”

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