Ending a nearly seven-year-long stand-off, the British Police on Thursday arrested WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London after his South American hosts abruptly revoked his seven-year asylum. In a video that went viral soon after the news of his arrest broke out, an agitated, frail-looking Assange with white hair and white beard is seen being carried out of the embassy by at least seven men to a waiting police van.
“Julian Assange, 47, has today, Thursday 11 April, been arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) at the Embassy of Ecuador,” police said on Thursday. They also said that they arrested Assange after being “invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorean government’s withdrawal of asylum.” The police statement also read that Assange will be in custody at a central London police station and will be appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court “as soon as is possible”.
WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 by Assange with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images. Till date, it has leaked over 1.2 million confidential documents beyond the hands of the government. The site has leaked various controversial government plans, secret documents, unknown videos, and front-page news headlines over a period of six years. Within recent years, many of the documents have been pertaining to the US war in Iraq, releasing documents such as mapping, prisoner information, and details as well as deals with media regarding coverage of the war. Footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq released by WikiLeaks hit the international headlines four years after its inception in 2010. As per reports, the video showed a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff. He had been in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012, after seeking asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden on a sexual assault allegation – which he denied and was later dropped by Sweden in 2017.
However, the charges that still exist against him and led to his arrest are breaking the rules of his original bail in London. His rapport with his asylum host crumbled and Ecuador accused him of leaking information about President Lenin Moreno’s personal life. Assange was also accused of repeatedly violating his terms of asylum.
The followers of Assange called the arrest illegal as for them he is a hero who is held free speech high and exposed the abuse of power by modern states. On the other hand, he is labelled a dangerous rebel who has undermined the security of the United States. Adding to that, the alleged rape victim reportedly said that she would push to reopen the case against him.
However, as per reports, Junior Foreign Minister Alan Duncan confirmed that Britain would not extradite Assange to the United States if he were to face the possibility of the death penalty there. WikiLeaks alleged that Ecuador terminating Assange’s political asylum in violation of international law is illegal.