On Thursday, April 11, Julian Assange was arrested in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. His arrest was due to something pretty simple, in the grand scheme of things – it was for not showing up to his trial after he was released on bail. He was first taken to a police station in central London and will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court later in the day.
According to a New York Times article, “[Assange] faces a charge in a British court of jumping bail, and the Metropolitan Police said in a statement that Mr. Assange had been arrested by officers at the embassy on a warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in 2012, for failing to surrender to the court.”
However, it also follows a U.S. Justice Department extradition request. According to The Guardian, the request is “‘in connection with a federal charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer’. In a statement, [the Justice Department] cited court documents unsealed today that show the charge relates to ‘Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States’.”
That refers to the Chelsea Manning computer hacking situation. According to The Guardian, the Justice Department claimed that “Assange was involved in a computer hacking conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence analyst, to crack a defence department password. Cracking that password allowed Manning to log on to a secret government computer network under another username and so cover her tracks when she leaked a vast trove of military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. Assange is accused of ‘actively encouraging’ Manning to provide more information’.” Assange faces five years in jail if convicted.
What is WikiLeaks?
Assange, 47, is the co-founder of WikiLeaks (created in 2006), an international organization that anonymously publishes secret information. It has been viewed unfavorably by many people, for releasing sensitive information.
WikiLeaks released “troves of classified United States documents and videos about the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and confidential cables sent among diplomats,” according to the New York Times. “The files documented the killing of civilians and journalists and the abuse of detainees by forces of the United States and other countries, as well as by private contractors, and it aired officials’ unvarnished, often unflattering views of allies and of American actions. It also revealed the identities of people working with coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which United States officials said put their lives at risk.”
It was also in the spotlight during the 2016 presidential campaign, due to its release of thousands of emails that were connected to former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. According to the New York Times, “WikiLeaks released thousands of emails stolen from the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee, leading to a series of revelations that embarrassed the party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. United States investigators have said that the systems were hacked by Russian agents. Mr. Assange made no secret of his intent to damage Mrs. Clinton, but he has insisted that he did not get the emails from Russia.”
Assange’s connection with Ecuador
Assange ended up reaching out to the Ecuadorian embassy in June 2012 to avoid being deported to Sweden – he had sexual assault/rape allegations there. However, “Sweden rescinded its arrest warrant for Mr. Assange in 2017, but prosecutors have stressed that the case has not been closed and could resume,” the New York Times said.
Recently though, due to recent events, Ecuador withdrew the granted asylum. This allowed the London police to step in and arrest Assange.
According to the New York Times, “The relationship between Mr. Assange and Ecuador has been a rocky one, even as it offered him refuge and even citizenship, and WikiLeaks said last Friday that Ecuador ‘already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest’ and predicted that Mr. Assange would be expelled from the embassy ‘within “hours to days”.'”
However, Lenin Moreno, the president of Ecuador, said it has to do with Assange’s meddling with affairs of other countries. This includes a recent release of information about the Vatican in Italy, as well as a “spying operation” at the Ecuadorean embassy, where Assange was “blocking security cameras at the embassy, accessing security files and confronting guards,” according to BBC. However, Wikileaks said, according to BBC, “that Ecuador had acted illegally in terminating Mr. Assange’s political asylum ‘in violation of international law’.”
Assange also sued the Ecuadorian government in October 2018, for, he claimed, violating his rights. The New York Times reported that “The Ecuadorean government said in March last year that it had cut off Mr. Assange’s internet access, saying that he had violated an agreement to stop commenting on, or trying to influence, the politics of other countries. The government also imposed other restrictions on him, limiting his visitors and requiring him to clean his bathroom and look after his cat.”