Posted on: POLITICO | April 10th, 2019
Authors: Ali Walker, Caitlin Oprysko, Paul Dallison
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who was arrested in London Thursday morning, is “no hero,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said.
Assange, 47, was taken into police custody for failing to surrender to bail and on a U.S. extradition warrant. In a statement, the U.K. Home Office said “he is accused in the United States of America of computer related offences.”
Footage of the arrest showed a heavily-bearded Assange shouting and gesticulating while being led out of the embassy by police officers.
He had been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since August 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden where authorities wanted to question him as part of a sexual assault investigation that has since been dropped.
Ecuador withdrew its asylum status for Assange Thursday, accusing him of “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols.” Wikileaks tweeted that Ecuador had “illigally [sic] terminated Assange political asylum in violation of international law.”
In a statement released by the Foreign Office, Hunt said: “What we’ve shown today is that no one is above the law. Julian Assange is no hero. He has hidden from the truth for years and years and it is right that his future should be decided in the British judicial system.
“It’s not so much Julian Assange being held hostage in the Ecuadorian Embassy, it’s actually Julian Assange holding the Ecuadorian Embassy hostage in a situation that was absolutely intolerable for them.”
Hunt said that Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno “took a courageous decision which has meant we were able to resolve the situation today. We’re not making any judgement about Julian Assange’s innocence or guilt, that is for the courts to decide. But what is not acceptable is for someone to escape facing justice and he has tried to do that for a very long time and that is why he is no hero.”
Speaking in the House of Commons Thursday lunchtime, Prime Minister Theresa May said the arrest “goes to show that in the United Kingdom no one is above the law.”
However, supporters of Assange rushed to his defence.
Former “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson, who has spoken of her “romantic connection” with Assange, tweeted: “How could you Equador [sic]? (Because he exposed you). How could you UK? Of course — you are America’s bitch and you need a diversion from your idiotic Brexit bullshit.”
Edward Snowden, who is holed up in Russia to avoid prosecution in the U.S., referred to Assange as a “publisher of — like it or not — award-winning journalism” and said images of his arrest “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.
Assange, an Australian national who set up Wikileaks in 2006, has been under U.S. Justice Department scrutiny for years over Wikileaks’ role in publishing thousands of government secrets and was an important figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe as investigators examined how Wikileaks obtained emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Democratic groups.
Barry Pollack, an attorney for Assange, demanded “access to proper health care” for Assange, which he said his client had been denied for seven years.
“Once his health care needs have been addressed, the UK courts will need to resolve what appears to be an unprecedented effort by the United States seeking to extradite a foreign journalist to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information,” Pollack said in a statement.
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