British police entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London Thursday, forcibly removing the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on a US extradition warrant and bringing his seven-year stint there to a dramatic close.
Video showed a heavily bearded Assange shouting and gesticulating as multiple officers hustled him into a waiting police van. He was arrested for skipping bail in the UK in 2012 and at the request of US authorities, London’s Metropolitan police said.
Officers moved in after Ecuador withdrew his asylum and invited authorities into the embassy, citing the Australian’s bad behavior.
The US Department of Justice confirmed Assange had been indicted for conspiring to steal military secrets with Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who supplied thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks.
The Department of Justice said that the indictment, signed on March 6 last year and unsealed Thursday, alleges Assange conspired “to assist Manning in cracking a password” on classified Department of Defense computer systems.
Assange appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London Thursday afternoon, where he was charged with failing to surrender in 2012.
One of his lawyers argued that he declined to do so for fear that he would not receive a fair trial, forcing him to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy.
The judge, however, called Assange “a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest,” finding him guilty of breaking his bail conditions. He faces up to 12 months in prison.
Assange must also appear for an extradition hearing on May 2, before which he will remain in custody.
Speaking to journalists in a scrum outside Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon, Jennifer Robinson, a member of Assange’s legal team, said they had been proven right in regards to their previous warnings that Assange would face extradition to United States for his “publishing activities” since 2010.
“I’ve just been with Mr. Assange in the police cell, he wants to thank all of his supporters for the ongoing support, and he said — ‘I told you so.'”
Robinson added her client was formally notified his asylum would be revoked by the Ecuadorian Ambassador on Thursday morning.
The WikiLeaks founder has been holed up at the embassy, yards from the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge, since 2012, when he was granted asylum as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was facing allegations of sexual assault.
The Swedish case has since been dropped, but Assange feared US extradition due to his work with WikiLeaks and remained in the embassy. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno said in a video statement Thursday that his country withdrew Assange’s asylum due to his “discourteous and aggressive behaviour,” “the hostile and threatening declarations of his allied organization against Ecuador” and “the transgression of international treaties.”
Assange “violated the norm of not intervening in internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said. “The most recent incident occurred in January 2019, when WikiLeaks leaked Vatican documents. Key members of that organization visited Mr. Assange before and after such illegal acts,” he added.
In July 2016, WikiLeaks published nearly 20,000 emails from Democratic National Committee staffers that appeared to show the committee favoring presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the US presidential primary.
Assange then told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the email release was timed to coincide with the start of the Democratic National Convention.
A US court filing in November 2018 inadvertently revealed US government efforts to criminally charge Assange.
Alan Duncan, the British Foreign Office’s Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, thanked Ecuador for lifting Assange’s asylum.
“It is absolutely right that Assange will face justice in the proper way in the UK. It is for the courts to decide what happens next,” Duncan said in a statement.
“We are very grateful to the Government of Ecuador under President Moreno for the action they have taken,” the statement continued. “Today’s events follow extensive dialogue between our two countries.”
On April 4, WikiLeaks tweeted from its verified account, “BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told @WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within “hours to days” using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext–and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.”
In a statement released Friday, Assange’s own legal team said that expelling him from the embassy would “violate international refugee law.”
“It will be a sad day for democracy if the UK and Ecuadorean governments are willing to act as accomplices to the Trump administration’s determination to prosecute a publisher for publishing truthful information,” the statement read.
The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry denied the rumors in a statement, calling them “fake news” and adding that the allegation of a deal with the UK “misrepresents reality.”