What just happened? Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has spent the last seven years in hiding at Ecuador’s London embassy, has been arrested after the South American country withdrew his asylum claim. The Australian national was given refuge at the residence in 2012 while on bail in the UK over charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.
According to a statement from London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), the Ecuadorian government withdrew asylum for Assange, who is currently being held at a police station in the UK’s capital and will appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court "as soon as is possible," where he is being charged with breaching the terms of his bail conditions.
"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," it added.
Assange has long maintained that if he were ever forced to give himself up to authorities he would be extradited to the US and face charges related to WikiLeaks’s publishing of thousands of American military and diplomatic cables.
Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, confirmed the decision to withdraw Assange’s asylum status on Twitter: “In a sovereign decision, Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.” WikiLeaks claims Moreno's actions were “in violation of international law.”
URGENT: Ecuador has illigally terminated Assange political asylum in violation of international law. He was arrested by the British police inside the Ecuadorian embassy minutes ago.https://t.co/6Ukjh2rMKD— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) 11 April 2019
Last year, it was reported that protecting Assange was costing Ecuador millions and that an international security team secretly filmed and recorded all his activity, including Assange’s daily routines and his interactions with visitors and staff. It was also claimed he compromised the communications system within the embassy and had his own satellite internet access, allowing him to intercept staff communications, something WikiLeaks strongly denies.
Back in 2016, WikiLeaks published thousands of Democratic National Committee documents from Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. It’s believed they were delivered to Assange by Russian intelligence operatives, but he has constantly denied the leaks had any links to Russia.
Update 10am: Hours after Julian Assange was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy, the U.S. Department of Justice has charged Assange with "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer." The DOJ plans to extradite to the United States under the U.S./UK Extradition Treaty, in regards to Assange's alleged involvement with Chelsea Manning in aiding him to crack a Department of Defense password, so that Manning could leak classified documents to Wikileaks. There is a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the current charge, however prosecutors have the option to add more charges at a later date.