Julian Assange was arrested by London police today as the U.S. charged the Wikileaks founder with hacking crimes.
Assange was taken into custody this morning by the Metropolitan Police at the Ecuadoran embassy, where he’d been granted asylum. London’s Scotland Yard said he’d been taken in under an extradition warrant and was due to appear in court later on Thursday.
In an indictment released this morning, the Department of Justice said Assange was charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charge alleges that in 2010 he worked with former U.S. intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password for U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet). Manning used her access to the network, used for classified documents and communications, to download materials that were then passed on to Wikileaks. During her work with Wikileaks, she downloaded databases on U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo Bay assessment briefs and 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables.
The indictment detailed direct contact between Assange and Manning. In one exchange regarding Guantanamo Bay, Manning told Assange that “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left.” Assange replied, “curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” He faces a maximum of five years in prison if found guilty.
Calls have also come from Sweden to resume an investigation around sexual assault. The Swedish Prosecution Authority said it couldn’t comment on the arrest, but added: “A preliminary investigation can be resumed as long as the suspected crime is not subject to statute of limitation. In this case, the suspected crime of rape would be subject to statute of limitation in mid-August 2020.” Swedish prosecutors had previously shut down an investigation after Assange refused to speak with authorities.
Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, tweeted that Assange had been arrested for a breach of bail conditions as well as the extradition request from the U.S. Robinson couldn’t be reached for comment at the time of publication.
When Assange was arrested, he was heard repeatedly shouting: “The U.K. must resist this attempt by the Trump administration.”
Wikileaks said on Twitter that Ecuador had illegally terminated Assange’s political asylum in violation of international law.
Assange entered the Ecuadoran Embassy seven years ago after the U.K. Supreme Court ruled that the Australian national should be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Ecuadoran president Lenin Moreno said in a statement that Assange was having his asylum revoked after “repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols. “
British prime minister Theresa May welcomed Assange’s arrest, thanking the Met police and Ecuador. “This goes to show that, in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law,” she said in a statement to the House of Commons. And her foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law. He has hidden from the truth for years.”
UPDATE: Assange was found guilty of breaching bail on Thursday afternoon, British time. He will be sentenced next month.
According to The Guardian, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson spoke outside Westminster Magistrates court, issuing a warning about the threat to a free press. “Anyone who wants the press to be free should consider the implications of this case. If they will extradite a journalist to the US then no journalist will be safe. This must stop. This must end.”
Assange’s lawyer Robinson said it was a “dangerous precedent” when a journalist could face U.S. charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States,” according to the BBC.