Julian Assange arrested by UK police, charged with hacking in the US
UK police officers arrested today Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks project that for years leaked state secrets from governments all over the world. London’s Metropolitan Police Service announced the arrest earlier today.
“Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) 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,” Met Police said in a short statement.
Assange has now been taken from Ecuador’s embassy and is now at a central London police station. Met Police said Assange will be arraigned before Westminster Magistrates’ Court “as soon as is possible.”
Ecuador revokes asylum
Assange had been living inside Ecuador’s embassy building in London since August 2012, when he applied for political asylum with the Ecuadorian government.
The British government has been in talks with the Ecuadorian government since Jule 2018 to have Assange’s asylum protection withdrawn. This happened today, police said, making the arrest possible. The arrest took place after Ecuador’s Ambassador in the UK invited Met Police officers inside the embassy. A video of the arrest is available here.
Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno also posted a video on Twitter explaining the country’s decision to withdraw Assange’s asylum. The main reason cited was Assange’s ongoing involvement with WikiLeaks, which broke Ecuador’s political asylum rules that prohibit asylum seekers from engaging in any political campaigns that impact the internal affairs of foreign countries.
In a tweet on April 5, last week, the WikiLeaks project anticipated that the Ecuadorian government was preparing to withdraw Assange’s asylum. WikiLeaks has not returned a request for comment.
UK police has been seeking to arrest Assange since August 2012, when he skipped an appearance in court and breached his bail conditions. At the time, Assange was fighting his extradition from the UK to Sweden, where police was investigating the WikiLeaks founder in a 2010 sexual assault and rape cape. The Sweden case was closed in 2017; however, UK authorities continued to seek Assange’s arrest for absconding.
For the past years, Assange has claimed numerous times that the Sweden case was a sham to get him extradited to Sweden, and then to the US.
The US government has been seeking Assange on criminal charges since 2010, when he leaked top secret documents provided by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
The leaks, published on the WikiLeaks portal, exposed classified operations from US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Manning served seven years in prison, commuted from 35 years by President Obama.
Subsequent leaks followed, exposing the political machinations of several other countries, like France and Saudi Arabia. WikiLeaks also published the documentation of several CIA hacking tools in a data dump known as Vault 7, and emails from the DNC 2015-2016 hack, which the US Department of Justice concluded were taken by Russian government-backed hackers and later passed on to WikiLeaks.
Assange formally charged in the US
Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, but the website became famous after the 2010 Manning leaks. Over the years, several allegations have been made about the site for its anti-US, anti-Clinton, and pro-Trump stance, along with the site’s possible ties to Russian foreign political influence campaigns.
According to Assange’s lawyer, the US has already filed an extradition request for the WikiLeaks founder as part of their ongoing criminal case started in 2010 –for which Chelsea Manning was also arrested again this spring. US officials issued an official arrest warrant in Assange’s name in December 2017, Assange’s lawyer said.
The US Department of Justice confirmed lodging a formal extradition request in a press release published today, hours after Assange’s arrest. Per the DOJ statement, Assange has been charged for “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer.”
The charge stems from the 2010 case where Assange had volunteered to help Manning crack the password of an Army-issued laptop, so Manning could extract and send Assange more classified documents.
The UK Home Office has confirmed the extradition request.