Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been complaining for some time now that he wanted to find a way to get out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London and now he’s gotten his wish. He’s out of the embassy and into a courtroom because the London police arrested him. Oddly enough, he didn’t walk out of the embassy on his own. The cops reportedly went into the building and removed him. (London Metro Police)
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.
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 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.
That last sentence from the police is the key to how this happened. As long as Assange had asylum from the Ecuadorean government, the cops couldn’t set foot in there to touch him. But the patience of Ecuador apparently ran out at last and they revoked his asylum and invited the metro police to come in and get him. When the cops dragged him out, Assange looked more like Rasputin than any sort of computer hacker.
So what’s next? The charges the Brits have against him are relatively minor. (Failure to appear or honor a warrant.) The rape charges he faced in Sweden were dropped quite a while ago, so he might not be looking at any serious consequences in England. But that’s far from his biggest concern. We already know that a grand jury has been impaneled to look into Assange’s activities. It’s the same case that recently landed Assange’s buddy Chelsea Manning in a jail cell on contempt charges.
But will we be able to get our hands on him? We do have an extradition agreement with Great Britain, but if Assange challenges the request (as he almost certainly will without some sort of immunity deal), the case could be tied up in court for months or even years. And even if we do manage to get him to the United States, what will he be charged with? Stealing and revealing classified information or private correspondence would be a good start, but Assange will claim that he’s a journalist and claim innocence based on being part of the free press. There are also questions about what he may or may not know about Russian interference in the election.
No matter how this plays out, we’re at least on our way to the next phase of this incredibly long story. And Ecuador has finally rid themselves of a massive headache.
UPDATE: (Jazz) The AP is confirming that Assange wasn’t only arrested on failure to appear charges. It was in response to a United States request for extradition. So we’re off to the races, folks.
BREAKING: London police confirm Julian Assange was arrested on behalf of US authorities as well as breaching UK bail conditions. https://t.co/nmscXQVVvn
— The Associated Press (@AP) April 11, 2019