Controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and is now in custody at a central London police station while he awaits a hearing before Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno withdrew Assange’s asylum request after the relationship between the Australian-born Assange and the Ecuadorian authorities deteriorated after the embassy cut Assange’s internet access in March 2017.
Assange was wanted by British police for skipping bail in 2012 while he was under investigation for sexual assault and rape in Sweden. He spent time in Wandsworth Prison and later fled that same year to the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he has remained ever since.
Moreno said his country had decided to stop sheltering Assange after “his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols,” a decision that cleared the way for the British authorities to detain him.
Assange is believed to have blacked-out security cameras, mistreated guards, and illegally accessed the classified files of the embassy without permission.
“The discourteous and aggressive behaviour of Julian Assange, the hostile and threatening declarations of its allied organisation against Ecuador, and, especially, the transgression of international treaties means that the asylum for Mr Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable,” Moreno said in a video posted on Twitter.
Assange now faces a litany of legal issues as the US Justice Department has charged him with having engaged in espionage after WikiLeaks published highly sensitive, classified documents. He also faces a charge in a British court for jumping bail in 2012.
The 47-year-old is also suspected of having aided Russia’s intelligence services – which he reportedly has collaborated with on more than one occasion – in their efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election. After having obtained material that was hacked by Russia’s spy services, Assange ordered WikiLeaks to publish he over 19,000 confidential that were stolen from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
The Justice Department has already charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with having hacked into the Democratic Party’s computers and that at least one of the Russian spies involved was in active contact with Assange.
American and British intelligence officials have concluded that Assange and WikiLeaks were specifically chosen by Russia’s FSB and GRU intelligence agencies to disseminate the information that it had hacked and actively solicit the support Donald Trump Jr, though no public evidence has been released which shows that the US president’s son actively pursued the offer.
This interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries was cited by Moreno as the key reason for allowing British police to take Assange into custody. The January dump of WikiLeaks’ hacked collection of confidential Vatican documents, an act that Moreno says proved that Assange was in violation of his asylum status and that he was still involved in WikiLeaks’ operations.