UK court finds Julian Assange guilty of skipping bail as US says he faces five years on hacking charges
Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, on Thursday, April 11.
UPDATED: Judge Michael Snow has found WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty of breaching his bail at Westminster Magistrates' Court. Assange faces a sentence of up to 12 months for the conviction and has serious charges pending in the United States. Snow also called him a "narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has said: “Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations. Moreover, prosecuting a foreign publisher for violating U.S. secrecy laws would set an especially dangerous precedent for U.S. journalists, who routinely violate foreign secrecy laws to deliver information vital to the public's interest."
The Met Police said: “Julian Assange, 47, (03.07.71) has today, Thursday 11 April, been further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities, at 10:53hrs after his arrival at a central London police station. This is an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act.
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has pled not guilty to the charges brought against him. Assange appeared inside the courtroom at London's Westminster Magistrates Court within hours of his arrest on Thursday. He gave a thumbs up to the press while going inside wearing a dark suit with his hair tied back. He reportedly appeared calm and confident when a judge asked him where his lawyers were.
He pleaded not guilty to failing to surrender to custody as required for an extradition order to Sweden.
The Department of Justice released a statement on Thursday, announcing a criminal charge against Julian Assange, accusing him of conspiring to hack into a classified US government computer. The charge relates to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” the Justice Department said in a press release. The United States DOJ in its indictment stated the charges Assange faces in the US and added that he faces up to five years in prison.
Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, on Thursday, April 11, according to reports.
Assange had sought asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in London seven years ago in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that was later dropped.
The Metropolitan Police said that Assange has been taken into custody. The officials added that the founder of the whistleblowing site will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court "as soon as is possible."The Minister of state for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan, after Assange's arrest, said: "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." Sir Alan added that they were grateful to Ecuador's government under President Lenín Moreno for their action which led to Assange's arrest. He also revealed that today's events follow "extensive dialogue between our two countries."
Reports state that police were invited into the embassy by the Ecuadorean ambassador. Ecuadorian president Lenín Moreno released a statement saying Assange's asylum has been withdrawn due to "his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols."
Home Secretary Sajid Javid has also confirmed the developments as he tweeted: "I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK. I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation & metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law."
The 48-year-old Assange had refused to leave the embassy, claiming if he did he would be extradited to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks. His arrest comes a day after WikiLeaks claimed it had uncovered an extensive spying operation against its co-founder at the Ecuadorean embassy.
WikiLeaks, last Thursday, had claimed that a senior source in Ecuador's state department had said that Assange would be expelled. However, Ecuador's minister of foreign affairs Jose Valencia said the claims were "unfounded" at the time. WikiLeaks released a statement on Twitter over Assange's arrest, saying that that the Ecuadorian ambassador "invited British police into the embassy" and he was immediately arrested.
Assange's lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, on Thursday said: "Assange has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a US extradition request."
Ever since President Moreno took office in 2017, Assange has consistently claimed that his living arrangement within the embassy in London was becoming increasingly hostile. He had claimed that the country was attempting to make life inside the premises more difficult for him in a bid to force him to vacate the building.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also thanked the Ecuadorean government for its cooperation on Assange's detention. Hunt, in a tweet, said that Assange was "no hero" and that "no one is above the law."
Following news of Assange's arrest, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov released a statement saying the country wants Assange’s rights to be observed, but couldn’t comment on the overall case. “We, of course, hope that all of his rights will be observed,” Peskov told reporters.
Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked classified documents on US surveillance programs around the world in 2013, also spoke on Assange's arrest, saying "This is a dark moment for press freedom."
"Images of Ecuador's ambassador inviting the UK's secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of--like it or not--award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom," Snowden wrote on Twitter.
Now that Assange has been taken out of the Ecuadorean embassy and charges are being brought against him, Sweden’s Prosecution Authority on Thursday said that it could reopen the sexual assault investigation into Assange. Prosecutor Ingrid Isgren said that the statute of limitations for the alleged crimes does not expire until August 2020, adding that Swedish officials "are following the developments."
Assange has denied all the allegations. Sweden had eventually dropped the case against him in May 2017.