WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Could Face Extradition to U.S. After Arrest in London

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has been arrested by U.K. police at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he had been holed up since 2012.

Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said on Twitter that he was arrested “in relation to a U.S. extradition request” as well as the charges of skipping bail for which he has been wanted by U.K. police since 2012.

Assange, 47, received diplomatic asylum from Ecuador after breaching bail in the U.K. during an investigation into sexual assault allegations in Sweden. Sweden has since rescinded its arrest warrant for Assange, though the case is not closed. Ecuador withdrew asylum on Thursday morning.

The WikiLeaks founder shot to prominence in 2010 when his site published a cache of leaks from the U.S. military provided by Chelsea Manning, including videos showing U.S. troops killing civilians. He has argued that if he were arrested in the U.K. or extradited to Sweden then he could be arrested by the U.S.

In a video posted to Twitter, the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno criticized Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive” behavior in the embassy, saying it had “led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.” Moreno took office as President in May 2017, replacing Rafael Correa, who had extended asylum to Assange.

In a sovereign decision Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols. #EcuadorSoberano

— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) April 11, 2019

“He particularly violated the norm of not interfering in the internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said. Assange had been accused by Ecuador of endangering its standing on the international stage by continuing to participate in releasing leaks on WikiLeaks from the embassy. “The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit,” Moreno said.

Ecuador said Thursday they had received a guarantee from the U.K. that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty, according to Reuters.

The U.S. has not publicly stated that Assange is facing charges, but in November a court filing appeared to mistakenly refer to charges filed against him in secret by the Department of Justice. “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged,” the document read.

WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 played a role in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Prosecutors said Russian hackers had passed those emails to WikiLeaks in order to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Video of Assange being arrested was obtained by Ruptly, a news agency owned by RT (formerly Russia Today, the Kremlin-linked channel).

BREAKING: #Assange removed from embassy – video

— Ruptly (@Ruptly) April 11, 2019

In December 2018, the U.N. criticized what it called the U.K.’s “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” of Assange. “States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable,” a U.N. panel of experts on arbitrary detention said. “The only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador.”

U.K. politicians, on the other hand, welcomed the arrest. “I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the U.K.,” tweeted the U.K. Home Secretary, Sajid Javid. “I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation … No one is above the law.”

Assange is being held at a London police station. Police said he would appear at court “as soon as possible.”

Police were invited into the embassy on Thursday morning by the Ecuadorean ambassador, police said.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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