FOUNDER of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has been arrested in London, after seven years of living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Britain.
Assange, who has been declared wanted by the United States of America, was arrested on Thursday after Ecuador withdrew the asylum granted to him, citing his “discourteous and aggressive behaviour”.
A London court has fixed May 7 for the hearing of the US extradition request on Assange which was made since 2010.
Assange, an Australian national, set up Wikileaks − a whistleblowing website − in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images. In 2010, the website published more than 700,000 confidential US documents, videos and diplomatic cables which was leaked to it by former US intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning.
1n 2012, Assange was accused of rape by the Swedish government and an extradition request was placed on him, but he denied the allegation and took refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after the country’s government granted him Asylum. He has remained there until his arrest on Thursday. The investigation into the alleged rape was later dropped.
Assange is also wanted in the US in connection with the 2010 case. He was charged by the US Department of Justice with ‘conspiracy to commit computer intrusion’, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
On why his asylum status was withdrawn, the President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, said the country has had enough of Assange’s intrusion into the internal affairs of other sovereign countries.
“The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when Wikileaks leaked Vatican documents. This and other publications have confirmed the world’s suspicion that Mr Assange is still linked to WikiLeaks and therefore involved in interfering in internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said.
He also accused Assange of blocking security cameras at the embassy, accessing security files and confronting guards.
This is coming just a day after Wikileaks said it had uncovered an extensive spying operation against Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy.
There has been a long-running dispute between the Ecuadorian authorities and Mr Assange about what he was and was not allowed to do in the embassy, the BBC reports.
Wikileaks also took to Twitter to claim that Assange’s arrest was the handiwork of some “powerful actors, including the (US’) CIA”.
“This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanise, delegitimize and imprison him,” the tweet read.
Similarly, Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom group urged the UK government not to extradite Assange as that would “set a dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future”.
Shortly after he was arrested on Thursday, Assange was arraigned before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded not guilty to accusations of failing to surrender to the court in 2012. However, the trial judge, Michael Snow, found him guilty of the charge, describing his actions as “the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”.