London, Apr 11 : WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after the South American country withdrew asylum from the WikiLeaks editor.
Assange had been granted refuge at the embassy while on bail in the UK over sexual assault allegations against him in Sweden.
Assange, 47, spent almost seven years inside the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. He was arrested on Thursday on a warrant issued by Westminster magistrates court on 29 June 2012 when he failed to surrender to the court, according to a report in The Guardian.
The Metropolitan police said: “He has been taken into custody at a central London police station where he will remain, before being presented before Westminster magistrates court as soon as is possible.
“The MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster magistrates court, and was invited into the embassy by the ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government’s withdrawal of asylum.”
Assange was shouting and gesticulating as he was carried out of the embassy in handcuffs by seven men and put into a waiting Met police van, video footage showed. He appeared to be carrying a book.
Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, said on Twitter: “In a sovereign decision, Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.”
But WikiLeaks said Moreno had acted illegally in terminating Assange’s political asylum “in violation of international law”.
The British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, tweeted: “Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years. Thank you Ecuador and President Lenín Moreno for your cooperation with the Foreign Office to ensure Assange faces justice.”
The home secretary, Sajid Javid, added: “Nearly seven years after entering the Ecuadorian embassy, 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 the Metropolitan police for its professionalism. No one is above the law.”
Assange’s arrest comes a day after WikiLeaks accused the Ecuadorian government of an “extensive spying operation” against him.
WikiLeaks claims meetings with lawyers and a doctor inside the embassy over the past year were secretly filmed.
Assange had refused to leave the embassy, claiming he would be extradited to the United States for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he did so.
Assange claimed that if he was extradited to Sweden he might be arrested by the US and face charges relating to the publication of hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks.
The journalist and Assange supporter John Pilger called last week for people to “fill the street outside the embassy and protect him and show solidarity with a courageous man”.
US authorities have never officially confirmed that they have charged Assange, but in November 2018 a mistake in a document filed in an unrelated case hinted that criminal charges might have been prepared in secret.
The court filing, submitted apparently in error by US prosecutors, mentioned criminal charges against someone named “Assange” even though that was not the name of the defendant. Legal analysts said the error was likely to have been caused by prosecutors copying and pasting from sealed documents.
The relationship between Assange and his hosts at the embassy has soured over the years. In March 2018, Assange’s internet access was cut off and he was forbidden from having visitors.
The Ecuadorian president had said Assange had “repeatedly violated” the conditions of his asylum in his country’s London embassy.