Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested in London
Julian Assange, the co-founder of Wikileaks, has been arrested by British police after being evicted by the Ecuadorian embassy in London in which he has been residing for the past seven years. Assange now faces possible extradition from the U.K. to the U.S. where he faces charges relating to hacking into government computers.
In a presentation before the Ecuadorian parliament, Foreign Minister José Valencia outlined nine reasons for revoking Assange’s asylum in the embassy. According to reports from The Guardian, Valencia “said Assange ‘permanently accused [embassy] staff of spying on and filming him’ on behalf of the United States and instead of thanking Ecuador for nearly seven years of asylum he and his entourage launched ‘an avalanche of criticisms’ against the Ecuadorian government. He referred also to the guest’s ‘hygienic’ problems including one which was ‘very unpleasant’ and ‘attributed to a digestive problem.’”
Valencia also noted that Assange’s health was deteriorating to a point which could not be treated safely inside the embassy.
Valencia also noted that the UK had offered sufficient guarantees of due process.
According to New York Times reports, Assange will have the right to contest the U.S. extradition request in British courts.
The U.S. indictment alleges that Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst then known as Bradley Manning, to hack into a Defense Department computer to reach restricted classified government documents and communications. Manning had access to the computer as part of her job as an intelligence analyst. Prosecutors allege that Assange encouraged her to work with him to get classified information off the computer.
Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified files in 2013, but President Obama commuted her sentence in 2017.
Assange originally sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden over sexual misconduct charges. While these charges were later dropped, it is reported that Assange remained in the embassy due to fear of being extradited to the U.S. for the aforementioned hacking charges.
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson told the BBC that accepting the extradition request would set a “dangerous precedent” that any journalist could face U.S. charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States.”
The situation is developing quickly, and live updates are available here.
Headlines have also circulated regarding Assange’s cat, who was given to him by a friend to serve as company while in the embassy. Feline fans must not fret, as reports indicate Assange gave the cat away in 2018 to provide him with a healthier lifestyle.
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