London – British police entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London yesterday, forcibly removing the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on a United States extradition warrant, bringing his seven-year stay 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 on charges that he skipped 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 Assange’s bad behaviour.
The US Department of Justice confirmed Assange had been indicted on a single charge of 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 yesterday, alleges Assange conspired “to assist Manning in cracking a password” on classified Department of Defence computer systems. He has not been indicted under the Espionage Act.
Assange, who is from Australia, appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London yesterday afternoon, where he was charged with failing to surrender in 2012.
On remand, Assange must also appear for an extradition hearing on May 2.
Speaking to journalists in a scrum outside Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday 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 Assange in the police cell. He wants to thank all of his supporters for the ongoing support.”
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. (CNN)