Julian Assange arrested after Ecuador cuts ties with WikiLeaks founder

11 Apr 2019

A teleconference with Julian Assange in 2015. Image: Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

After seven years of asylum at Ecuador’s embassy in London, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is now in UK police custody.

Julian Assange is likely to face extradition to Sweden – if not the US – after UK police detained the Australian native earlier today (11 April). After being granted refuge by the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 while on bail over allegations of sexual assault, the country’s president announced it would no longer grant him asylum.

The arrest warrant issued by the UK courts was for the failure of surrendering himself to the police on 29 June 2012.

“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,” the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said in a statement.

“The MPS had a duty to execute the warrant on behalf of Westminster magistrates’ court, and was invited into the embassy by the ambassador following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.”

Confirming this on Twitter, Ecuador president Lenín Moreno said: “In a sovereign decision, Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily life protocols.”

US extradition

The decision by Ecuador to cut ties with Assange comes just one day after WikiLeaks accused the country’s government of conducting an “extensive spying operation” against Assange, according to The Guardian.

WikiLeaks claimed that meetings Assange had with lawyers and a doctor at the embassy were all filmed by the Ecuadorian government. This followed tensions that had been growing for some time, with Assange’s internet access being cut off last month and him being told he was banned from having any further visitors.

The embassy said that these measures were taken as Assange had “repeatedly violated” his conditions of asylum, despite being granted Ecuadorian citizenship last year and posing for a photo while wearing the country’s national football shirt.

While the extradition case will look to send Assange to Sweden over the sexual assault allegations, he continues to claim he will likely be extradited to the US over WikiLeaks’ publication of emails and files of the US Democratic National Committee.

This seemed to be confirmed after Assange’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, tweeted that he had been arrested “not just for breach of bail conditions, but also in relation to a US extradition request”.

A teleconference with Julian Assange in 2015. Image: Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Updated, 3.10pm, 11 April 2019: This article was amended to clarify that The Guardian reported that WikiLeaks, not Julian Assange, made the spying accusation against the Ecuador government.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic